The UK has arbitrarily extended a transition period for food supply to Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the regulation with minor restrictions will be extended until October. The British government is unilaterally changing part of the Brexit agreement with the European Union.
As British Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said, companies should be given enough time to “implement new requirements and ensure the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Great Britain had already requested such an extension in early February.
Relations between Great Britain and the European Union threaten to deteriorate further, with the EU talking about a “violation” of Northern Ireland’s code of conduct. Deputy Commission Chairman Maros Sefkovic criticized the unilateral action as “undermining” the work of the Joint Committee and the mutual trust.
It was disappointing that the UK government did not announce him as co-chair of the committee. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Gowney said unilateral action would be detrimental to “building trust and federalism.”
Northern Ireland is still part of the EU domestic market
The Northern Ireland Protocol actually provides that European Ireland will continue to be part of the EU domestic market. This is to prevent restrictions on the border between Northern Ireland and the EU state of Ireland, and to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. To do this, it would have to restrict the movement of goods from other parts of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland.
To avoid complications, there is currently a transition phase of several months, which should be completed by the end of March. Nevertheless, many companies complain that there are difficulties in trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and in some cases the supermarket shelves remain empty. After the transition phase, a health certificate must be issued for the supply of animal products.
This is not the first time the EU and the UK have clashed over the Northern Ireland protocol. Already at the end of January, there was a controversy over the regulation of vaccine supply to Northern Ireland, which later drew criticism for the protocol-structured emergency mechanism. Northern Irish Prime Minister Arlene Foster later spoke out in favor of abolishing the entire protocol because it would lead to significant tensions.