Coveney says European Union 'simply can not trust' UK Government after NI Protocol move

New Brexit row after UK extends exemption to Irish border checks

New Brexit row after UK extends exemption to Irish border checks

The row is the latest in a series of disputes over the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and, specifically, the treatment of goods being transported to and from Great Britain.

However, Simon Hoare, the chairman of the United Kingdom parliament's Northern Ireland Affairs committee, and a member of the governing party, tweeted that while the case for extending the grace periods was "compelling" the government's unilateral move was an "approach most likely to have negative/unhelpful consequences".

Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice president in charge of EU-UK relations post-Brexit, said the move amounted to "a violation of the relevant substantive provisions" of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated a vow on Wednesday to leave nothing off the table to improve post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland.

The EU's anger was sparked by the British government's decision to extend until October a grace period for checks on agri-food entering Northern Ireland that was set to expire at the end of the month.

"This also constitutes a clear departure from the constructive approach that has prevailed up until now, thereby undermining both the work of the Joint Committee [UK-EU committee tasked with implementing the Brexit deal] and the mutual trust necessary for solution-oriented co-operation".

The protocol is created to prevent the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland following European Union trade rules.

Businesses in Northern Ireland have been pressing for an extension to the grace periods to avoid a cliff-edge plunge into extra bureaucracy linked to the protocol.

THE UK GOVERNMENT has announced that it is to unilaterally extend a grace period that was given to supermarkets in Great Britain exporting agri-foods to Northern Ireland.

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The British government extended a grace period for some checks on agricultural and food products imported by retailers to Northern Ireland until October 1 in a move it said was necessary to ensure the free flow of goods to the British region.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: 'As part of the pragmatic and proportionate implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Government is taking several temporary operational steps to avoid disruptive cliff edges as engagement with the European Union continues through the Joint Committee. The government has set out a plan for unlocking the country in four stages as the vaccination programme progresses, with the first stage beginning on the 8 March with reopening of schools, allowing for two people to meet socially outdoors and care home residents to have contact with one regular visitor.

Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, described it as "deeply unhelpful" and a breach of the protocol.

"This is not the first time this has happened, that they are negotiating with a partner that they simply can not trust", he said.

The party's Westminster leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said: 'Whilst supermarkets and those bringing in goods via our ports from Great Britain will be relieved to see extensions to the grace periods, we will be continuing to press the Government for a permanent solution.

But its announcement offers more evidence that Northern Ireland's delicate balance of peace is being destabilised as a result of Brexit, with unionists furious over new border checks that they say are separating them by stealth from the rest of the UK.

'The protocol has been demonstrated to be unworkable'.

Northern Ireland's agriculture minister said last week construction of those facilities had been halted over concerns about the new rules.

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