EU to hold conference on Northern Ireland Protocol later today

Vice president of the European (EU) Commission, Maros Sefcovic, will hold a press conference later today on the topic of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The conference will take place at 5:30p.m BST today, Wednesday, October 13, a spokesperson for the EU commission has confirmed.

The Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney, said he was looking forward to the coming proposals.

“I look forward to detailed proposals [today] from Maros Sefcovic. It follows months of hard work, careful listening across Northern Ireland and will deliver practical solutions to make the Protocol work better,” he said.

“I hope [the] UK government is serious about moving on in partnerships.

“I hope today can be a day to improve relations with Northern Ireland business and Unionist community in particular,” he added.

The conference also follows a speech given by Brexit minister Lord Frost yesterday, October 12, in which he called Northern Ireland a “very significant problem” between the UK and the EU.

“…my fifth and final point, and the biggest current problem – the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is the biggest source of mistrust between us and for all kinds of reasons, we need to fix it,” he said

We now face a very serious situation. The Protocol is not working. It has completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland. It is not doing the thing it was set up to do – protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. In fact it is doing the opposite. It has to change.

“We are now heading to a crucial few weeks. We await the proposals coming tomorrow from Maros Sefcovic and the Commission in response to our [the UK government] ideas.

“We will be really ready to discuss them – whatever they say – and we will obviously consider them seriously, fully and positively,” he said.

Frost shared a legal text with the Commission that amended the protocol, and briefly commented on some aspects of the text.

Concluding, he said he would personally be happy if he could “come here [Lisbon] next year and talk about a new age of cooperation in which the word ‘Protocol’ never appears”.

Northern Ireland Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol was introduced to ease the paradox of Northern Ireland remaining part of the European Single Market while also retaining access to the UK’s internal market.

However, while the agreement allows goods to leave Northern Ireland for Britain, it has meant checks and restrictions apply for goods from Britain entering the region. Currently, the biggest stumbling blocks of the NI Protocol relate to livestock movements and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods such as seed potatoes and horticultural produce.

The Grace Period facilitates the movement of certain goods, such as chilled meats, from Britain to Northern Ireland.

In June, this grace period was extended until September 30, allowing for further discussion to continue on a more permanent decision.