Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Commission refused UK’s plea to extend the Brexit grace period for checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain to Northern Ireland, saying the trade treaty the country has signed with the EU has provided London with sufficient tools to solve the current problems, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, in charge of negotiating with the EU and Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly, sent a written request to EC vice president Maroš Šefčovič asking that the grace period for Northern Ireland be extended from three months to at least two years.
Problems with supply
Šefčovič held a video call with Gove, and later told Ireland’s RTE television that, under the terms of the Brexit trade deal signed in December, the responsibility for resolving the issues with mandatory checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from mainland Britain lies with Westminster, and not the EU.
“I really think that if all the flexibilities we put on the table and into the (Northern Ireland) Protocol would be used to the maximum, that all of the issues which we are discussing today would be really resolved,” Šefčovič told RTE.
Currently, supermarkets in Northern Ireland are experiencing problems with restocking their shelves, as the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit agreement, effectively kept the territory within the EU single market, which the rest of the UK left. The problems have arisen despite the grace period, set to last until March, which allows for certain exceptions in food and wholesale shipments.