17 May Brexit news – live: NI protocol ‘dead in the water’ says UK as dossier leak suggests new Irish Sea food checks
The Northern Ireland Protocol agreed as part of the government’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU is “dead in the water”, a senior ally of Boris Johnson has reportedly claimed, as a significant change in tone from UK officials suggests ongoing talks over the mechanism are stalling.
Following apparent threats from Brexit negotiator Lord Frost that the UK could walk away from the Protocol unless Brussels relents from what he called its “purist” approach to maintaining the customs border in the Irish Sea, RTE reports that the Irish government is concerned by London’s increasingly hostile tone towards the protocol – days after a meeting between Taoiseach Michael Martin and Mr Johnson.
Meanwhile, the BBC has obtained a copy of the protocol “roadmap” shared by the UK with the EU, which the broadcaster said revealed where contentions lay on issues such as food products, medicines, and access to databases, in addition to a British proposal to phase in new Irish Sea border checks on food products in four stages from October.
Agreed UK/EU approach on medicines for Northern Ireland ‘urgently’ needed, leaked documents say
The UK’s “roadmap” for talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol, obtained by the BBC, also states the “urgent” need to find an agreed approach in order to avoid any restriction in the availability of medicines in Northern Ireland.
“At a meeting between Lord (David) Frost and Vice President [Maros] Sefcovic, it was agreed to look for a solution to enable regulatory requirements to be met in the UK where medicines are being supplied specifically and solely for the Northern Ireland market.
“An agreed approach is required urgently to avoid any restriction in the availability of medicines in Northern Ireland (with public reporting demonstrating the strength of industry concerns).
Here’s more detail on the proposals for new Irish Sea food checks contained within the Draft UK-EU Work Programme – or “roadmap” – after it was circulated around Stormont officials last week.
According to the BBC and PA news agency, the document suggest rolling out the checks in four phases.
- Phase 1 would be for fresh meat products and would begin in October 21.
- Phase 2, for dairy plants and seeds would begin in January 2022.
- Phase 3, dairy plants and seeds, and phase 4, short-shelf life products, are not given a date in the document.
The document states: “Delivery will be supported with the rollout of the new Digital Assistance Scheme (DAS), to digitise the agri-food certification and verification processes to facilitate the process for traders
“The UK and EU will take forward work to establish an Agrifood Forum under the Specialised Committee’s authority and reporting to the Withdrawal Agreement’s Joint Committee.
“This would enable ongoing cooperation to develop proposals which at all times protect Northern Ireland food supplies and the core purposes of the Protocol, whilst at the same time meeting the requirement to have minimal impact on the lives of the people of Northern Ireland.”
Retail lobby calls for urgent talks after report of new Irish Sea food check proposals
Britain’s retail industry lobby group has called for urgent talks between the major supermarket groups it represents and EU and British officials to discuss proposed new post-Brexit Irish Sea border checks for food products, reported by the BBC on Monday.
British Retail Consortium director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “We have always argued for a long term pragmatic approach to checks and paperwork on food moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland; one that recognises the need for EU import controls but does not add unnecessary bureaucracy and costs, reducing choice for Northern Ireland consumers.
“EU and UK officials should urgently sit down with the major supermarkets to understand the issues and agree robust and practical controls which work for households across NI.”
Majority of Britons want remote parliament arrangements to continue, poll finds
Just over half of all Britons want remote working arrangements at parliament to continue even when the coronavirus pandemic is over, a new poll has found.
A total of 51 per cent of those questioned in a Glasgow University poll agreed that MPs should be able to take part in debates and vote on legislation remotely – compared to 35 who said politicians should be required to be in parliament to take part in debates and vote on new laws.
The survey found that 61 per cent believe remote working at parliament would encourage more women and people with caring responsibilities to put themselves forward to be MPs, while 64 per cent said the change would allow MPs in rural areas or those who represent parts of the country a long way from Westminster to get more done.
Tory MP criticised for describing pro-Palestinian demonstrators as ‘primitives’
Away from Brexit for a moment, my colleague Tim Wyatt reports that Michael Fabricant has been condemned for spreading “hateful racism” after he described pro-Palestine protesters in London as “primitives”.
The Tory MP for Lichfield tweeted a video of clashes with police outside the Israeli embassy on Saturday and added the comment: “These primitives are trying to bring to London what they do in the Middle East.”
John Rentoul: What is going to happen to the Northern Ireland protocol?
In this Politics Explained piece, our chief political commentator John Rentoul looks at the future of the Northern Ireland Protocol – as it faces new levels of criticism from its own UK architects.
He suggests that a recent article by Lord Frost – in which the Brexit negotiator claimed the UK had not foreseen that the EU would take such a “purist” approach of enforcing checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain – “does not do much to dispel the notion that Boris Johnson was so desperate to get a deal through the House of Commons that he didn’t care what it said exactly, and thought he could sort out the details later”.
And following new DUP leader Edwin Poots laying out his staunch opposition to the Protocol, John explores how much of a threat this could pose to its survival – with much of this pinned on whether unionists can work together to secure themselves a majority at Stormont in order to vote to end the protocol in 2024.
NI Protocol ‘dead in the water’, Johnson ally says
The Sunday Telegraph yesterday cited a senior ally of Boris Johnson as claiming that the Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed between the UK and EU just months ago – is “dead in the water” and “contravenes the Good Friday Agreement”.
The anonymous individual suggested changes must be agreed with the bloc ahead of the peak of the loyalist marching season in two months’ time – a suggestion dubbed “irresponsible” by an Irish government source, according to RTE.
And following a meeting at Chequers on Friday between Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheal Martin, a Dublin source told Ireland’s national broadcaster that the comments reported in The Telegraph echoed those heard in the meeting with the prime minister.
“The argument was that the Protocol doesn’t enjoy the support of one community in Northern Ireland, therefore it’s not protecting the Good Friday Agreement,” the source was reported as saying.
“The community that doesn’t like it wants it to just go away because it’s treating Northern Ireland differently to Britain. That was the line of argument. That’s a big step away from, to use Boris Johnson’s phrase, which he repeated, about ‘sandpapering’ the Protocol. He was clear he was talking about a fair degree of change to it.”
Copy of UK’s ‘roadmap’ for NI Protocol obtained by journalists
The BBC has obtained a copy of the NI Protocol “roadmap” shared by the UK with the EU, which covers more than 20 separate topics, such as food products, medicines, and access to databases.
“Now we can see in black and white the problems with the protocol that have been identified by both sides, rather than relying on leaks and second-hand accounts,” the BBC’s chief political correspondent Adam Fleming said.
He added that “there are a lot of issues to be resolved, reminding us that agreeing a deal is one thing and implementing it in the real world is another”.
The broadcaster reports that the UK is proposing to phase in new Irish Sea border checks on food products in four stages from October.
‘Red Wall’ seats would have been safer under my leadership, Andy Burnham says
Andy Burnham has said Labour would not have lost so many seats in its traditional northern heartlands if he had defeated Jeremy Corbyn in the party’s 2015 leadership election, my colleague Conrad Duncan reports.
The former Labour leadership candidate made the claim during an interview with The Observer, in which he admitted that he would run for the leadership again after the next election if he had enough support
‘Incompetence or bad faith’ to blame for NI Protocol woes, Brexit commentator suggests
Here’s some analysis from Brexit commentator David Henig on the developments regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol, who suggests the UK government’s emerging dissatisfaction with the agreement can be put down to “incompetence or bad faith”, or both.
Responding to RTE’s report that the Irish government is “concerned” by the UK government’s increasingly hostile tone towards the Protocol, Mr Henig added: “It is possible, even probable, that the tone is getting worse because the UK government is not getting what it wants.”