Brexit: EU to unveil proposals aimed at resolving political stand-off over Northern Ireland agreement

The European Union will today outline proposals aimed at resolving the political stand-off over the Brexit agreement, with an offer to significantly reduce border checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland.

It comes after Lord Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, dialled up the government’s hardline rhetoric over the contentious issue in a speech on Tuesday, warning the bloc it would be a “historic misjudgement” not to rewrite the deal.

But the minister was accused of stoking tensions by accusing the EU of being “disrespectful” and attempting to reverse the referendum result, as he set out his stall and effectively demanded the Northern Ireland Protocol he signed is ripped up.

According to The Guardian, the bloc will offer that up to 50 per cent of post-Brexit border checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be waived, with more than half on chilled meats and plants.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, who is expected to front a press conference on Wednesday, has previously said the measures will be “very far-reaching” and address issues over the movement of agri-food goods and medicines across the Irish Sea.

“Brussels is going to allow more goods to pass into Northern Ireland without checks in return for having more data to do proper market surveillance,” an EU official also told The Telegraph.

“The number of checks will go down massively. This is the best way to cut checks, short of a Swiss-style alignment agreement.”

While the measures may reduce everyday friction between NI and GB, a major point of contention remains over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Lords Frost suggested the court’s oversight was a red line for the government.

Under the terms of the deal struck by Boris Johnson in 2019 and later hailed by ministers, the ECJ would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol.

The UK government now wants to remove that position and replace it with an independent arbitration process, but Mr Sefcovic has insisted that the EU will not move on the issue.

Asked whether the proposals reported would be enough, Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party chairman, told Sky News: “We’ll wait until we receive the full announcement from the EU.

“The government as a whole will engage fully, constructively, with these proposals. It is important there is fundamental change to the Northern Ireland Protocol — let’s see exactly what the EU comes up with.”

He added that there were “wider questions about the competence” about the European Court of Justice, adding: “This treaty rather uniquely is governed by the courts of one party to it.”

However, he declined to say whether altering this section of the deal would be a “deal breaker”, adding: “It is a major issue for us — I’m not going to start pre-empting, writing red lines here and there.”


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