A senior EU official has said the UK’s demands for the Northern Ireland Protocol, as spelled out in its July document, are “unachievable”.
The UK’s Command Paper calls for a radical renegotiation of the protocol, including the abolition of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
“We have always made it clear that we believe the targets set by the UK are unachievable,” the official said.
The official said the UK wanted to remove the role of EU institutions and the CJEU was sitting atop a broader governance structure on the protocol, which the UK did not agree to.
“As long as this remains the UK’s position, I don’t see what we can do,” the official said.
He said the EU had “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that its proposals to facilitate the implementation of the protocol “were a significant difference from the baseline scenario, which is Ireland’s true protocol. North as it was the day it was conceived and even go beyond the status quo as it stands now. “
The official said the EU had presented practical proposals on the movement of British medicines in Northern Ireland, customs, agri-food controls and a monitoring role for Stormont and businesses.
He said these included flexibilities on the flow of food, not only to retailers but also to schools, hospitals and prisons.
The official said there had been an agreement in technical talks between the EU and the UK on the degree of risk to be taken into account when goods are transferred from Britain to Ireland from North.
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The UK Command Paper said there should only be customs formalities and checks on goods clearly destined for southern Ireland, and no checks on goods clearly destined for Northern Ireland.
The official said: “This commonality is that goods transferred from GB to NI should be treated differently depending on whether their final destination is Northern Ireland or their final destination is the European Union. [ie, Ireland].
“The question is how do you tell if a good is destined for Northern Ireland or for the internal market? What we think doesn’t work is just leaving it up to the traders to say where it goes.
“We believe that a sufficient amount of data should be collected in any case, so that a credible risk assessment can then be carried out to determine whether the destination as declared actually makes sense or not.”
The official said the UK has required traders in Northern Ireland to operate under UK VAT rules, as opposed to EU VAT rules.
However, he said the UK had refused to use the structures of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the EU-UK Joint Committee, which contains a specific provision to deal with VAT issues.
Yesterday, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, questioned the extent of the flexibilities offered by the EU.
However, the EU official said: “Our package as a whole foresees significant changes in operations on the ground, in fact a new model for the implementation of the protocol.
“In particular, customs formalities related to customs would be halved, a large range of retail products would also benefit from simplified application. And overall, our ideas would result in up to 80% reduction in SPS. [agrifood] checks. It is something that we consider to be extremely significant. “