UK government extends grace period for Brexit protocol

The British government has announced a unilateral indefinite extension of grace periods delaying the implementation of some controls required by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Brexit minister David Frost has said that by not introducing checks due to take effect on October 1, he hopes to create space for the EU to deal with his call last July for major changes to the protocol.

Since then, there have been preliminary technical talks between the UK and the EU. These will continue in order to determine if a constructive process can be established to discuss and address the issues identified in the Protocol. Then, to provide space for further potential discussions, and to give certainty and stability to businesses while any such discussions take place, the government will continue to operate the protocol on the existing basis. He said in a written statement to Parliament that this includes grace periods and easements currently in force.

The European Commission said it had “taken note” of Britain’s action, adding that the Withdrawal Agreement was an international treaty and that both sides were legally bound to fulfill their obligations under it. But the European Commission, which has suspended legal action against Britain for its previous breach of the agreement, said it would not immediately start a breach procedure over Britain’s latest unilateral action.

“Our focus remains on identifying long-term, flexible and workable solutions to address the issues related to the practical implementation of the Protocol that citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland face. However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol. The Commission continues to work constructively with the UK, in the interest of all communities in northern Ireland.

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“Our approach to the Protocol is based on achieving stability, certainty and predictability in line with the objectives of Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement and in order to protect the single market. In this way, Northern Ireland businesses and citizens will reap the full benefits of the Protocol and, in particular, the access to the single market it provides.”

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