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London unilaterally changes UK-EU Northern Ireland Protocol terms

The current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until 1 October

LONDON, March 4. /TASS/. UK Government unilaterally extended the grace period which covers a number of products shipped to Northern Ireland from other parts of the United Kingdom and provided by the Northern Ireland Protocol within the Brexit agreement, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said in a statement Wednesday.

"For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on 24 February, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until 1 October," the statement said.

Initially, the grace period allowing UK suppliers to avoid filing customs health certificates when shipping good to Ulster, was supposed to last until April 1.

The UK government was forced to change the agreement terms under pressure of businesses who warned about a possible disruption of supply due to the need to file customs declarations and undergo additional inspections, which could have caused empty shells in stores.

According to the trade agreement, signed between the EU and the UK, the Northern Ireland, which left the EU as a part of the UK, remained a part of the EU customs space. This double status made it possible to avoid creation of hard border between Ulster and the Republic of Ireland - a EU member state - but it required introduction of control procedures for shipment of a number of goods to the Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK.

The EU harshly criticized the London’s decision. European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic immediately accused London of violation of the Brexit agreement. In this context, UK Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe David Frost held talks with Sefcovic.

"Lord Frost explained that the measures announced today, following official-level notification to the Commission earlier this week, were temporary technical steps, which largely continued measures already in place, to provide more time for businesses such as supermarkets and parcel operators to adapt to and implement the new requirements in the Protocol," says the statement, published on the UK government website Wednesday. According to the statement, the sides agreed to continue consultations on the issue.

The UK left the EU on February 1, 2020. On January 1, 2021, the interim period, which extended all EU norms to the United Kingdom, expired.