Brexit: Insider discusses UK state aid rules
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EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic suggested the EU had offered a significant number of concessions in the hope of convincing No10 to fully implement the Brexit deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border. Alongside the plan for a three-month delay an EU ban on British-made sausages and burgers being sold in Northern Ireland, Brussels has offered to make it easier for the trade in medicines and livestock, as well as for motorists and guide dogs being transported between the rest of the UK and the region. Responding to claims that he has not shown pragmatism, Mr Sefcovic said: “They are an unquestionable response to those in the UK, suggesting that the EU is inflexible or too legalistic, because in some cases, notably on medicines, we have completely turned our rules upside down and inside out.”
To defuse the row over the implementation of the rules, Brussels has offered a package of concessions to the UK to ease EU red tape on Northern Ireland.
EU officials set out plans for the bloc to tweak its own laws next month to allow drugs licensed for use in Britain to be prescribed in the region without being reassessed.
The bloc’s rules will be relaxed to ensure an “undisrupted supply of medicines to Northern Ireland”.
“This is an area where we are prepared to change our own rules, our own legislation, to make sure it doesn’t work to the detriment of Northern Ireland”, the EU official said.
They will also exempt guide dogs from rules that require pet owners travelling between Britain and the area to secure an animal health certificate within ten days of a trip.
And in a move to make the transport of livestock between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK simpler, the Commission said it was looking to ease up on a number of checks.
UK motorists will also be allowed to drive in the bloc without an insurance green card, making it easier for those crossing the Irish border.
Tensions over the Brexit deal’s protocol to avoid hard border are expected to continuing simmering before another showdown in the autumn.
Eurocrats blamed an “ideological quest for Brexit purity” for the lack of a permanent deal after agreeing to push back an EU ban on British-made bangers and burgers being sold in the region.
Raising the prospect of future clashes over the issue, a senior EU official said: “We do not intend to continue with rolling extensions to the grace period.”
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The European Commission said it would use the three-month extension to broker a long-term solution with Britain and allow supermarkets in Northern Ireland more time to adapt their supply chains.
Whereas Downing Street is insisting that under no circumstances should the trade of chilled meats between GB and NI be banned under the terms of the protocol.
EU officials are demanding that Downing Street aligns the UK with the bloc’s food safety rules as the price for ending their blockade on British chilled meats.
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They say this would eliminate 80 percent of the checks on British goods exported to Northern Ireland under the protocol to avoid a hard border.
The EU official said: “We intend to use these three months to discuss a temporary Swiss-style agreement, which would do away with 80 percent of the checks between GB and NI.
“It can be negotiated very quickly and it can be temporary if the UK is concerned it will have an impact on future trade deals.
“Whether the UK chooses such a route or not is very much a question of the priorities it has…what’s clear is that if the aim of the UK is to be able to diverge from EU rules, then there will have to be checks.”
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