Fisheries, Northern Ireland: negotiations between London and Brussels at an impasse

“We hope to make some progress, but honestly the gap between us is still pretty big. “ David Frost, British Minister responsible for Brexit, had announced the color just before his meeting in Brussels on Friday 5 November with Maros Sefcovic, the vice-president of the European Commission. This effectively ended in an impasse. Whether it is on the application of the Northern Irish protocol, a crucial part of the Brexit agreement, or on the issue of fisheries, which opposes in particular London and Paris, the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) always appeared so divided.

“We haven’t seen any movement on the British side. I find this disappointing and once again I ask the UK government to cooperate with us in all sincerity ”, said Maros Sefcovic after the meeting, which lasted almost three hours. Progress has been ” limits “ and European proposals “Do not solve effectively” the current difficulties, reply the British.

If the problem of licenses not obtained by French fishermen has received media attention in recent days, the meeting between Mr. Sefcovic and Mr. Frost focused mainly on Northern Ireland. London is calling for a renegotiation of the protocol, which establishes a customs border in the Irish Sea, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is a commercial border within the United Kingdom itself, considered as an attack on its sovereignty by the British government.

On the ground, the protocol considerably complicated trade between these two parts of the country, causing empty shelves in supermarkets at the start of the year. “Today, the exporters have adapted and things are going quite well on the ground, but it is because we have obtained a period of delay”says Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Traders Consortium. The United Kingdom has in fact unilaterally postponed the imposition of several additional controls, in particular health, which should have been implemented in 2021.

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Proposals to limit customs procedures

Aware of the extreme sensitivity of the subject in a province which has experienced a civil war of thirty years, the European Commission has finally made a gesture. If it refused any renegotiation of the protocol, it put on the table, in mid-October, proposals to limit customs procedures. “Formalities will be halved, a large number of retail products will benefit from simplified certification and controls will be simplified by up to 80%”, recalled, on Friday, Mr Sefcovic, insisting on the fact that the Union had done so ” a big step “ to London. The British government rejects this reading. He puts forward the calculations of a supermarket chain, which estimates that the commission’s proposals would reduce the delays at the border from forty-eight to forty-three hours only …

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Fisheries, Northern Ireland: negotiations between London and Brussels at an impasse