United Kingdom agree to EU's request for extension on deal ratification date

Elias Hubbard
February 26, 2021

Michael Gove sat down with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in a crunch meeting to discuss problems that have emerged surrounding Northern Ireland border following the UK's withdrawal from the EU a year ago.

A further meeting of the joint committee is set to take place to "provide further steers and where appropriate approvals".

Mr Gove is set to discuss issues surrounding the Irish Sea border with European Commission Vice-President MarošŠefčovič, including the UK's request for extensions to "grace periods" over checks and controls on goods crossing from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland. The UK had previously expressed disappointment over the extension request.

It comes after a junior DUP minister warned the party that Irish Sea checking processes could become "overwhelmed" when a grace period covering supermarket goods lapses on 1 April, at which point all retail agri-food products will require EU Export Health Certificates (EHCs) to move from Britain in to Northern Ireland.

"The UK noted that it would provide a new operational plan with respect to supermarkets and their suppliers, alongside additional investment in digital solutions for traders in accordance with the protocol".

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic

The two sides said they would continue to talk to industry groups and other players in Northern Ireland to hear about the challenges they face implementing the new trade rules. He asked that the grace period be extended until 2023 in order to minimise post-Brexit disruption.

"From January 29 until February 24 the European Union has prevaricated, dragged its feet and closed its eyes to the serious crisis within our supply chain".

"It is time for the United Kingdom Government to act unilaterally", she said.

However, Michelle O'Neill, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister and Vice President of Sinn Féin, praised the Commission for listening to local businesses and industry representatives over the past week. From March he will be replaced by David Frost, recently appointed to Boris Johnson's Cabinet to oversee Brexit matters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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