Britain extends Northern Ireland trade deal grace period

The Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect on January 1. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain said Monday (Sept 6) it will extend a grace period on implementing checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as it disputes a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

London wants to renegotiate the deal, known as the Northern Ireland protocol, which came into effect earlier this year. The EU opposes this, saying that Britain knew full well what it signed up to.

The deal includes chilled meats and the wrangle has beeen dubbed a "sausage war".

Brexit minister David Frost said the government will "continue to operate the Protocol on the current basis. This includes the grace periods and easements currently in force".

London in July announced a delay until October 1 on customs controls on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from mainland Britain.

The European Commission responded with a statement saying that the UK is legally required to fulfil its obligations, but that the EU "is not moving to the next stage of the infringement procedure launched in March 2021, and is not opening any new infringements for now".

The Commission said it "continues to engage constructively with the UK, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland".

Frost said that technical talks with the EU would continue to "determine whether a constructive process can be established" to discuss and address the issues the UK has with the deal.

The Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect on January 1, when a Brexit transition period ended and Britain's 2016 vote to split from the EU came into full effect.

It is designed to prevent a hard border emerging between the north and EU member Ireland - a frequent flashpoint in the decades of violence - by transplanting customs checks to Northern Irish ports receiving goods from mainland Britain.

However, unionist leaders - and more hardcore loyalists sometimes linked to paramilitary groups - oppose the protocol.

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