It took less than an hour for the EU to start beating its chest over the Northern Ireland Protocol. At the time of going to pixel, Liz Truss is still up at the despatch box fielding questions over the planned changes, and already European Commission VP Maroš Šefčovič has issued a statement essentially threatening a full on trade war:
“Should the UK decide to move ahead with a bill disapplying constitutive elements of the Protocol as announced today by the UK government, the EU will need to respond with all measures at its disposal. Our overarching objective is to find joint solutions within the framework of the Protocol. That is the way to ensure legal certainty and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”
Read the full statement below:
Liz Truss embarks on her first day as lead EU negotiator today, following the sensational resignation of Lord Frost on Saturday night. She confirmed she is to speak to Maros Sefcovic today about the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying she wants “a comprehensive solution that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and everyone across our great country.” Not much then…
On Sunday, Guido totted up that Truss is now responsible for:
Last night The Telegraph revealed accusations by hardline Tory MP Brexiteers that giving Frost’s job to Truss represents a “downgrading” of Brexit: “We need a political operation headed up by a dedicated minister. The Northern Ireland Protocol needs the complete and undivided focus of a minister who is doing nothing else.” Some might argue that; others might point to the old adage – If you want something done, ask a busy person…
UPDATE: Truss confirms she told the EU that the lady’s not for turning…
”We want a constructive relationship with the EU,
underpinned by trade and our shared belief in freedom
and democracy. Resolving the current issues is critical to
unleashing that potential.
The UK position has not changed. We need goods to
flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
end the role of the ECJ as the final arbiter of disputes
between us, and resolve other issues.
We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our
preference remains to reach an agreed solution.
If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger
Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems
faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast
(Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”
Following Lord Frost’s punchy speech yesterday afternoon, the EU briefed out a sizable olive branch it’s set to offer the UK to resolve the blatant problems at present with the Northern Ireland protocol. Under the proposals, up to 50% of customs checks on goods will be lifted – the figure even higher for controls on meat and plants entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The Telegraph reports there could be the creation of a “green lane” for goods entering Northern Ireland from GB, and a separate “red lane”, with additional customs controls, for goods intended for the republic or beyond.
On the media broadcast round this morning, Oliver Dowden told Sky that the government will wait to receive the full announcement, though said the briefed changes above would be “welcome steps” while questions remain regarding the European courts’ role.
Asked by Guido for a reaction last night, UK government sources were holding firm against the EU’s initial offering, though they confirmed that Frost’s demand over the role of European courts is a hard red line, simply saying “it has to go”. Many weeks of fighting and arguing yet to come…
Michael Gove has this afternoon announced that agreement in principle has been reached between the co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement – himself and Maroš Šefčovič. This agreement means the controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill have be ditched for good.
“An agreement in principle has been found in the following areas, amongst others: Border Control Posts/Entry Points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products, export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets, and a clarification on the application of State aid under the terms of the Protocol.”
“In view of these mutually agreed solutions, the UK will withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the Taxation Bill.”
The controversial clauses were written in to the Internal Market Bill to give the UK a power of last resort in case the EU took advantage of the Joint Committee process and disrupted inter-UK trade. The UK was concerned the EU would threaten to blockade the movement of food and other goods within the UK’s internal market. Now it appears the EU has formally committed to not do that. Euro Guido awaits to see the text of the agreement…
UPDATE: A UK Government source tells Guido “Maroš Šefčovič and his team were constructive and pragmatic. We are pleased that we have reached agreement in principle on a package to apply in all circumstances that will protect Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K’s customs territory, uphold the peace process and give certainty to people and businesses in Northern Ireland”
The EU has published a statement following an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee. Guido has pulled out the key excerpts:
“Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.
“Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.
“Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month. He stated that by putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK.
“He reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations of the legal obligations contained in the text – which the European Union will not be shy in using.
Read the statement in full here.
The UK has published its own legal position on the Internal Market Bill, resting in part on Gina Miller’s famous activist court case which asserted the sovereignty of Parliament. Top trolling by Dom…
“treaty obligations only become binding to the extent that they are enshrined in domestic legislation. Whether to enact or repeal legislation, and the content of that legislation, is for Parliament and Parliament alone. This principle was recently approved unanimously by the Supreme Court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union  UKSC 5.”
Read the UK’s legal position in full here…