UK rejects EU’s Northern Ireland ‘solutions’

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European Commission re-floated previously proposed solutions on trade of medicines, guide dogs and animals between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The U.K. on Monday rejected the European Commission’s proposals for “solutions” to ease trade friction between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, which Brussels set out in two so-called non-papers published earlier the same day.

The two papers, which had previously been shared with the U.K. government as well as EU countries, include proposals covering medicines as well as food safety checks — also known by the technical term sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) — and the movement of assistance dogs for disabled people.

However, the two non-papers had already previously been sent to the British government — the document on medicines went in June — and the two sides remain locked in a dispute over how to solve trade problems between Northern Ireland and Britain. A U.K. spokesperson said the papers did not address all the problems and called for “comprehensive and durable solutions.”

Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the current trade set-up in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol is “unsustainable” and called for a renegotiation — an appeal that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen immediately rejected. 

The non-paper on medicines proposes changes to the EU’s own rules so that regulatory compliance functions, such as quality control tests, could be permanently conducted in Great Britain as long as it can be ensured that relevant medicines are only distributed to Northern Ireland and not further into the EU.

The Commission says this would “ensure a continued, long-term supply of medicines in Northern Ireland” as it had been “too costly for certain operators currently based in Great Britain” to move the regulatory approval procedures to Northern Ireland or the EU, as was foreseen by the initial treaty.

Yet the U.K. government spokesperson said late Monday: “The solution the EU has set out today remains the same as the one they sent to us in late June — the EU has not addressed the issues and concerns that we have raised with them. 

“The EU’s proposal was a welcome start but it would be complex to operate, onerous and would not deal at all with those medicines, such as new cancer drugs, which under current arrangements must be licensed by the European Medicines Agency in Northern Ireland. That is why we have proposed in our Command Paper that the simplest way forward in order to avoid these problems in future is to remove medicines from the scope of the [Northern Ireland] Protocol altogether.”

The second non-paper includes proposals “to ease the movement of assistance dogs accompanying persons travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland,” as well as “to simplify the movement of livestock” between both parts, according to the Commission. The document further seeks “to clarify the rules on EU-origin animal products that are moved to Great Britain for storage before being shipped to Northern Ireland.”

The U.K. spokesperson commented on the second non-paper: “What the EU is presenting as a package of solutions is in fact only a small subset of the many difficulties caused by the way the Protocol is operating. We need comprehensive and durable solutions if we are to avoid further disruption to everyday lives in Northern Ireland — as we have set out in our Command Paper.”

Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s Brexit point person, said the solutions “were brought about with the core purpose of benefitting the people in Northern Ireland,” adding that “our work is about ensuring that the hard-earned gains of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement.”

Politico

Post Author: Intercourier

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