In an attempt to pour oil on the waves in the somewhat shaky relationship with Boris Johnson’s government, the EU is today expected to submit a proposal that entails major tariff reductions in the British Isles.
Up to 50 per cent of customs controls on goods imported into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK could be abolished altogether, reports The Guardian.
Border controls a crucial issue
One of the big issues during the Brexit negotiations was how to avoid border controls between the Republic of Ireland and British Northern Ireland.
All parties agreed on the importance of upholding the Irish peace agreement of the 1990s, which stipulates, among other things, that the border should be kept open and free from infrastructure such as cameras and roadblocks.
Instead, the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol was created, which means that Northern Ireland in practice remained in the EU internal market and that a customs border was instead established between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Great dissatisfaction in Northern Ireland
But the solution has caused great dissatisfaction in the British Isles – especially among so-called unionists in Northern Ireland. Britain has also accused the EU of being too rigid in its controls.
This summer, for example, Boris Johnson claimed that 20 per cent of all border controls carried out at the EU’s external border occur between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
As recently as yesterday, Tuesday, Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost called on the EU to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol and replace it with a new agreement. Failure to do so would be a “historic misjudgment” according to the minister.
Sausages and medicines
And now the EU is expected to meet Britain.
According to Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, the new proposals will be very far-reaching and aim to significantly reduce controls on, among other things, agricultural products. A solution is also expected to be presented to enable the export of British sausages to Northern Ireland – chilled meat is currently not allowed to be imported into the EU at all.
The new regulatory easing is also expected to make exceptions for the rules linked to the import of medicines which would otherwise often have to undergo expensive lab tests in order to be introduced into the EU.