EU to slash spot checks and cut red tape amid NI Protocol row

13 October 2021, 17:47 | Updated: 13 October 2021, 18:25

Maros Sefcovic has outlined EU plans to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol
Maros Sefcovic has outlined EU plans to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

The EU has proposed to slash spot checks and cut red tape on goods being shipped to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

It said it is effectively offering an 80% reduction in spot checks on British agri-food goods entering the country, while claiming its proposals on customs would also cut the volume of paperwork needed on goods by 50%.

The proposals form part of a wider plan outlined by European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic at a press conference this evening, amid the ongoing political stand-off between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Downing Street has said the way the protocol is being operated by the EU cannot continue, with Brexit minister Lord Frost having set out his own vision for the future of the protocol in a speech yesterday.

However, Lord Frost had made clear the removal of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) oversight function in relation to the protocol was a red line for the government – and this was not mentioned in the EU proposals.

Lord Frost launched a bitter attack on the EU in his speech yesterday
Lord Frost launched a bitter attack on the EU in his speech yesterday. Picture: Getty

Mr Sefcovic would not be drawn on this at the press conference, saying he has presented an “appealing picture” to the UK.

The protocol is intended to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open while protecting the single market, which Northern Ireland remains a part of.

However, the need for checks on goods crossing to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has caused disruption to many businesses.

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It has also led to growing tensions both within Northern Ireland and between London and Brussels.

Following the EU's proposals, which also included a plan to turn rules on medicine trade "upside down and inside out", it is expected there will be a new round of negotiations between the two sides in the weeks ahead.

Mr Sefcovic said he “invites the UK government to engage with us earnestly and intensively on all our proposals”.

Attempting to pressure Boris Johnson and Lord Frost, he added: "I really hope that we share the same goal of peace, stability and prosperity on the island of Ireland."