Brexit grace period extension discussed by Leo Varadkar
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The European Commission said it would not entertain a wholesale rewriting of the Brexit treaty but accepted Lord Frost’s refusal to implement EU red tape in Northern Ireland for the foreseeable future. It comes after the Brexit minister announced further delays to some Irish Sea border checks that were due to be enforced as part of our divorce deal with the bloc. Lord Frost said the decision to extend the grace periods, which mean that not all of the controls in the region have to be implemented, was necessary to “provide space for further potential discussions” with the EU.
Both sides are expected to continue their wrangling over the Northern Ireland Protocol in the coming weeks, with No10 demanding a complete overhaul.
But eurocrats are set to reject such proposals, instead insisting that fixes to end the disruption in Northern Ireland can be found within the treaty itself.
The Commission said: “We take note of the UK ministerial statement regarding the operation of the Protocol on the current basis, including the continuation of existing grace periods.
“We continue to stress that the Withdrawal Agreement is an international agreement. The Protocol is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement and the agreed solution between the UK and the EU to the problems caused by Brexit for the island of Ireland. Both sides are legally bound to fulfil their obligations under the Agreement.
“Our focus remains on identifying long-term, flexible and practical solutions to address issues related to the practical implementation of the Protocol that citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland are experiencing. However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol. The Commission continues to engage constructively with the UK, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland.”
The Commission insisted it would continue to put off legal action that it triggered against Britain for previously unilaterally extending the grace periods.
The EU’s Brussels-based executive also made clear it would not open any “new infringements for now”.
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