The EU will not accept the UK’s proposal that goods crossing the Irish Sea to stay in Northern Ireland should do so without additional bureaucracy, said EU Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.
The government and the EU have similar proposals to introduce a red and green lane for goods entering Northern Ireland, with goods in Northern Ireland on the green lane and goods at risk of entering the republic going on the red lane, with additional clearance documents and other checks.
However, there is still a gap between the plans. The government says the green belt should not include unnecessary bureaucracy, and most goods move between London and Belfast as freely as between London and Birmingham, while the EU says filling out forms for the green strip can be cut as well. do not eliminate.
Asked whether the EU will ever accept the idea that some goods crossing the Irish Sea do not need documentation or will always need something, Mr Shefchovich told the Belfast Telegraph: “I think it is always something will be.
“I think we can minimize this if we have very good cooperation with our colleagues from the UK. What we look at with our trusted trader scheme, with our two and a half SPS certification pages, with ultra-reduced datasets required for customs procedures … most checks could be done remotely via IT and this green lane or speed lane could work very clearly. “
He said that if the two sides cooperate, “dozens of trucks are inspected daily,” and that if that works, “maybe we can push it even further.” He likened this to what the EU has done about medicines, saying it could include “extraordinary flexibility that the EU has never offered to anyone”, but they need “political engagement”.
The most senior person in the EU is dealing with this issue Northern Ireland Protocol insisted that EU proposals would bring “certainty and stability” to the situation, while a bill on the Northern Ireland Protocol introduced this week by Boris Johnson’s government would give so much delegated power that ministers could change everything at will and create uncertainty ».
Asked if the EU had done anything wrong in your process, Mr Shefchovich found no mistakes, instead pointing out that Mr Johnson’s government welcomed the deal after negotiations along the line.
However, unlike some other EU figures, he acknowledged that the protocol raises issues that are “burdensome” for Northern Ireland.
Last year, there was a report from EU inspectors who said they wanted to see more inspections between the UK and Northern Ireland, as well as more documentation, fees levied on firms transporting food, plants and animals, and pets that require additional documentation and more. checks while traveling with their owners.
Asked if he still wants to see these processes, Mr Shefchovich said: “On all these issues, I would really like to say that there are solutions, but our impression is that the UK does not want them.”
He cited the example of goods that do not risk entering the Republic of Ireland, where the UK has agreed to place a special sticker on them with the words “For sale only in the UK”. But he said nothing happened and the oath was broken. Laughing, he asked how it can be so difficult to stick a sticker on goods if the products are easy to stick stickers “three for the price of two.”
Firms in Northern Ireland do not charge bureaucracy at the maritime border, which is required by EU law. Mr Shefchovich declined to say whether he wanted the charges, saying it was “very technical”.
Asked whether the protocol could survive if the unions overwhelmingly opposed it, Mr Shefchovich said he was in contact with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and told him: “We are not looking for a political victory in this debate. We just want to understand your practical issues. “
The EU has repeatedly stated that a protocol is needed to defend the Good Friday Agreement, but Lord Trimble, the architect of the deal, has previously said the deal “breaks the heart of the deal” – and all surviving negotiators agree with it.
Asked how he could say he knew more about how to treat the agreement than the former first minister, Mr Shefchovich said: “I would not compete with such an important political leader who has done so much for peace. I’m not competing with Mr. Trimble. “
He said the EU had spent four years trying to find a solution with Britain, and “at the express request of the British Prime Minister” they had jointly concluded that the best solution was a protocol. He added that the EU “is in no way trying to interfere in the internal politics of Northern Ireland.”