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EU-UK joint decision to implement Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol

DUBLIN: European Union-United Kingdom joint decision to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol. This was stated in a statement issued after a meeting between the Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove. The joint statement said the two sides were committed in this regard.

The statement made it clear that no significant changes had been made to the protocol. However, the EU has not yet announced its readiness to extend the existing grace periods exempt from EU food safety rules for goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, EU sources say the extension of grace periods has not been ruled out. However, the European Commission and member states are of the view that no extension will be possible until the implementation of the agreement signed between Gove and Sefcovic and their teams last December. Sefcovic described a number of areas where the UK did not meet its obligations under the December agreement.

It is important to note that EU officials working at Northern ports do not have real time access to the UK’s customs database. It also causes a lack of physical and identity checks of food items entering Northern Ireland from the UK.

The current grace period ends on April 1. From this time on, all food products, including meat entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, will require documentation, including export health certificates.

However, the UK wants to develop a plan to improve the surveillance and traceability systems of British supermarkets with Northern Ireland outlets. British officials believe the EU can be satisfied with these arrangements. They also hope that this will eliminate the need for export health certificates. For that, Britain is pushing for an extension of the EU grace period. But EU sources said they had not yet received enough information about such UK proposals.

European Union (EU) sources said that it is mandatory for supermarkets to be exempted from the requirement of export health certificates for food items during the grace period. The commission was also given a list of operators eligible for the exemption. The UK has provided a list of 2,000 people, which is said to be too large.

The First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland attended the meeting. First Minister Arlene Foster criticized the European Commission’s move to implement Article 16 of the Protocol on 29 January.

The Joint Committee also approved the decision to hold further meetings with Northern Ireland business groups and other stakeholders. It was suggested that the deal with Northern Ireland could be modeled on the Swiss-style agreement or the EU-New Zealand veterinary agreement.

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