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EU: easing customs rules is still on the table


MEP David McAllister. (Aaron Chown/PA)

MEP David McAllister. (Aaron Chown/PA)

MEP David McAllister. (Aaron Chown/PA)

The EU is willing to take a flexible approach to the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol including considering further easing customs rules, but will not scrap any part of the deal.

MEPs and EU officials have appealed for calm in the wake of a planned legal challenge by unionists and others to the Northern Ireland protocol contained in that deal.

"We want to work on practical solutions," said German MEP David McAllister, who chairs the European Parliament's UK coordination group.

He told reporters yesterday that the bloc would "continue to explore all flexibilities" in EU rules but "remain firm on our principles".

"What we now expect is to implement the rules of the protocol. It is not about a thorough review of the protocol or even amending what was negotiated."

EU and UK officials are to meet tomorrow in a 'joint committee' to discuss how to ease trade disruptions between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UK's Brexit point man, Michael Gove, wrote to the EU earlier this month asking for an extension of grace periods for supermarkets importing processed meat and other foods until 2023, but the EU is not considering a lengthy extension.

A spokesman for the European Commission said it would take a "constructive attitude and a solutions-driven attitude" to the talks.

"We are fully committed - fully committed - to the Good Friday/Belfast agreement and to the proper implementation of the protocol in Ireland and Northern Ireland, protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, and importantly, minimising the impact of Brexit on the everyday lives of communities north and south of the border," the spokesman said.

Fianna Fail MEP Barry Andrews, who sits on the Parliament's trade committee, said there was "no reason" why the grace periods could not be extended.

"There's a 12-month grace period for medical products within the protocol, and I think there should therefore be capacity for further flexibilities of grace periods," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"I see no reason why we couldn't extend existing three-month and six-month grace periods." He said it was important to be sensitive to moderate unionists but said there was "no alternative to the protocol".

Belfast Telegraph