The EU will not accept the UK’s proposal that goods crossing the Irish Sea and staying in Northern Ireland should do so without any additional bureaucracy, EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic said.
The government and the EU have similar proposals for red and green lanes for goods entering Northern Ireland, with goods remaining in Northern Ireland using the green lane and goods at risk of entering the Republic using the red lane, with more documents. and more checks.
However, there is still a gap between the plans. The government says the green lane should not come with additional bureaucracy, with most goods moving between London and Belfast as freely as they do between London and Birmingham, while the EU says green lane forms can be reduced , not eliminated.
Asked if the EU would ever accept the idea that some goods crossing the Irish Sea would not need documentation or that there would always be a need for something, Mr Šefčović told the Belfast Telegraph: “I think it’s always there will be something.
“I think we can bring it to a minimum if we have very good cooperation with our British colleagues. What we’re looking at with our trusted trader scheme, with our two and a half page SPS certification, with super-abbreviated datasets required for customs procedures… most of the checks could be done remotely via IT and that green bar or express the lane can run very fast.”
He said that if the two sides cooperate, “a few dozen trucks will be checked every day” and that if it worked, “maybe we could move it even further.” He compared it to what the EU has done with medicines, saying it may include “extreme flexibility that the EU has never offered to anyone” but needs “political engagement”.
The EU’s most senior figure dealing with the Northern Ireland Protocol insisted that the EU proposals would bring “certainty and stability” to the situation, while the Northern Ireland Protocol bill introduced this week by Boris Johnson’s government would provide as much delegated authority that “ministers can change everything on a whim and create uncertainty”.
Asked if the EU had done anything wrong in the process, Mr Šefčović cited no mistakes, instead focusing on the fact that Mr Johnson’s government welcomed the deal after discussing it line by line.
However, unlike some other EU figures, he admitted there were problems with the protocol, which was “burdensome” for Northern Ireland.
Last year there was a report by EU inspectors saying they would like to see more checks between the UK and Northern Ireland, as well as more paperwork, fees levied on firms transporting food, plant or animal products, and pets. requiring more documents and much more. checks when traveling with their owners.
Asked if he still wants to see these processes, Mr Šefčović said: “On all these issues, I would just like to say that there are solutions, but we have the impression that the UK does not want them.”
He cited the example of goods that are not considered at risk of entry into the Republic of Ireland, where the UK has agreed to put a special sticker on them that reads “For sale in the UK only”. But he said that nothing happened and the oath was broken. Laughing, he asked how it could be so difficult to put a sticker on a product when it was easy to put a three-for-two sticker on a product.
Firms in Northern Ireland are not charged for maritime border bureaucracy as required by EU law. Mr. Šefčović declined to say whether he wanted the charges to be brought, saying it was “very technical”.
Asked if the protocol could survive when unions overwhelmingly oppose it, Mr Šefčović said he was in contact with Sir Geoffrey Donaldson and told him: “We are not looking for a political win in this debate. We just want to solve your practical questions.
The EU has repeatedly said that a protocol is needed to protect the Good Friday Agreement, but Lord Trimble, the architect of the deal, has previously said the deal “cuts the core of the deal” and all surviving negotiators of the deal agree. with him.
Asked how he can say he knows more about how the agreement should be interpreted than the former first minister, Mr Šefčović said: “I would not compete with such an important political leader who has done so much for the world. I’m not in competition with Mr. Trimble.
He said the EU had spent four years trying to find solutions with the UK and “at the express request of the British Prime Minister” they had jointly concluded that protocol was the best solution. He added that the EU “has not tried in any way to interfere in the internal politics of Northern Ireland”.