Brexit: EU's 'peculiar' law criticised by Eustice

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Maros Sefcovic, the bloc’s Brexit chief, will travel to London tomorrow for top-level discussions with Lord Frost. The Brussels diplomat will offer what he believes to be eight concessions to cool tensions over the Brexit deal’s Protocol to avoid a hard border. He will tell Lord Frost the EU’s offer is substantial enough to warrant the Government to implement the post-Brexit border fix “in good faith”.

On medicines, the EU is ready to bend its own rules in order to ensure an “undisrupted supply” for drugs authorities in the UK for Northern Ireland.

An EU official said: “Here we are considering solutions beyond flexibilities already inherent in applicable EU law.”

The move is seen as a huge concession by the bloc, which Lord Frost has accused of “legal purism” in the row over Northern Ireland.

In another major step, Brussels will concede that trade tariffs and quotas for steel, up to 25 percent, have hit Northern Ireland in a way that was “not anticipated in the Protocol and not desired”.

The official said: “We are currently exploring solutions that would ensure that Northern Ireland businesses could benefit from the quota system of either the EU or the United Kingdom.”

Other special derogations are being drawn up by eurocrats on pet passports for guide dogs entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain as well as streamlined rules to avoid “multiple tagging” of livestock.

Another scheme offered by the EU would help reduce the cost of second-hand cars by reviewing VAT rates with the Treasury.

Also a joint review could be accelerated out by the European Food Safety Agency and UK authorities on high-risk plants to ease a number of customs restrictions.

In return, Lord Frost will table plans for a veterinary agreement between the UK and EU, which would recognise that their food safety rules are virtually the same in most areas.

The EU’s own offer in this area, already rejected by the Brexit minister, would see 80 percent of all checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland eliminated by the UK aligning to the bloc’s animal and food safety rules.

Despite its apparent offer of concessions, Brussels is also threatening to retaliate with trade sanctions unless Britain fully implements the Northern Ireland Protocol.

To avoid a hard border, the area essentially remains inside the bloc’s single market, meaning a number of customs controls must be carried out on goods shipped from the rest of the UK.

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This has sparked significant tensions in the region, with Unionists concerned that their place within the UK has been threatened.

An EU official said: “Unfortunately we cannot exclude that the UK will choose the more confrontational route.

“The EU has been patient but the EU’s patience is wearing thin, and if this continues we will have to consider all the tools and all the options that are available to us.”

Mr Sefcovic insisted that Brussels was ready to retaliate against any unilateral measures taken by Downing Street to ease the burden of the Protocol on the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

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The top eurocrat said: “If the UK takes further unilateral action over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations.”

Ahead of the talks, Lord Frost said: “We are seeing political turbulence, with the loss of First Minister Arlene Foster, the change of the UUP leadership and street protests.And there are real world impacts on lives and livelihoods.”

He added: “The EU needs a new playbook for dealing with neighbours, one that involves pragmatic solutions between friends, not the imposition of one side’s rules on the other and legal purism.”

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