-Top News UK News

Impasse over changes to Northern Ireland protocol

Britain and EU have been trying for months to overcome a deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol, which sets the trading rules for the British region that London agreed before it left the European Union…reports Asian Lite News

Britain and the European Union are at an impasse over changes to parts of the Brexit deal governing trade with Northern Ireland, Britain’s Europe minister James Cleverly told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The two sides have been trying for months to overcome a deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol, which sets the trading rules for the British region that London agreed before it left the EU but now says are unworkable.

Britain’s EU withdrawal pact effectively left Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market and customs union given its open border with EU member Ireland, though in so doing raised some barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“The truth is that we have come to something of an impasse, and I don’t think that’s through a lack of goodwill, and I think it’s more through what we regard in the UK as an overly limited (EU) negotiating mandate,” he said.

The government argues the deal in its current form is causing friction to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, and in turn threatening the 1998 peace agreement that mostly ended three decades of sectarian violence in the province.

Britain has previously argued it has grounds to trigger a clause in the deal allowing parts of the Brexit treaty to be abandoned – a move that could badly damage an already fragile diplomatic and economic relationship with the EU.

“The situation as we now see it is not working,” Cleverly said. “It is not doing what it was meant to do, which is to protect equally north-south and east-west trade, and that, by extension, is causing community tensions in Northern Ireland.” Cleverly said he still hoped to reach a negotiated deal with the EU. He declined to comment on media reports that the government was preparing legislation that would unilaterally overrule parts of the Brexit deal.

But, he did say that pressure to find a way forward was mounting and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been clear on the need to look at ways to alleviate the tension caused by the current arrangements.

“We’re looking at a range of options about what we can do to ease these tensions,” Cleverly said.

Perceptions that the protocol erodes Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom has sparked anger in pro-British communities, helped fuel some street violence last year.

However, a majority in Northern Ireland voted in favour of remaining in the EU in the 2016 referendum that resulted in a national 52%-48% margin in favour of leaving the bloc.

Closer US ties may ‘reboot’ UK finance

Britain should move further and faster in reforming its financial rules to ‘reboot’ after Brexit and rethink the “anti-competitive” tax system on banks, top bankers and think-tanks said on Thursday.

Britain has already launched over 30 public consultations, including on reforming insurance rules on Thursday, to keep London a globally competitive financial centre after being largely cut off from the European Union due to Brexit.

“The debate has moved on from alignment with the EU in exchange for future access. Instead, the UK should focus on closer alignment and cooperation with the U.S. and with other markets around the world,” a joint report from New Financial in London and the Atlantic Council in Washington said.

Britain should focus on “low-hanging fruit” such as faster tweaking of inappropriate rules inherited from the EU, but be wary of going above and beyond standards implemented internationally, the report said.

Banks have welcomed draft reforms so far but want a faster pace given that many will need legislation, which takes time.

Richard Gnodde, CEO of Goldman Sachs International, said he was not seeking a “bonfire of regulations” and Britain needed to look at how to be a global leader in new areas like crypto and carbon markets.

“Nothing is preordained. Those things are up for grabs. How do we secure them?” Gnodde said, adding that the new UK visa regime would help recruit top talent, but tax on banks needed a “lot of work”.

Anna Marie Dunn, EMEA CFO of JPMorgan bank, added that tax on banks in Britain was higher than elsewhere, which is “anti-competitive” and puts off banks from having assets in the UK.

The think-tanks’ report said Britain’s capital markets have the potential to grow by up to 40% if it can close the gap with the United States, this equates to an additional $75 billion annually.

Britain’s financial services minister John Glen told a launch event for the report that he shared its ambition for closer U.S. ties as he brought in “sweeping reforms” to sharpen London’s competitiveness.

ALSO READ-Biden, Modi to meet for Quad in Tokyo  

-Top News EU News UK News

UK ‘remains prepared’ to suspend NI Protocol

Brexit minister David Frost said if there is no other solutions, the UK remains prepared to use the safeguard provisions under Article 16, which are a legitimate recourse under the Protocol, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

UK’s Brexit minister David Frost said on Friday that the UK government remains prepared to trigger the article in the withdrawal agreement that allows London and Brussels to temporarily abandon commitments, if current controversy over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is not solved.

“If no such solution can be found, we remain prepared to use the safeguard provisions under Article 16, which are a legitimate recourse under the Protocol in order for the Government to meet its responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland,” Frost said in a statement issued after his meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with Sir David Frost. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

As part of the Brexit agreement that came into force in January, there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but under the protocol all goods and animal-based products coming from the rest of the British territories must be checked upon arrival to see if they comply with EU sanitary regulations.

The UK government has argued that the protocol is not working, as it causes delays and interruptions to goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and irritates loyalists of the British crown who believe their place within the union could be affected.

In October, the EU offered to cut checks on food, plants and animal products by 80% and paperwork for transport companies by half, but London is pushing for renegotiating the whole protocol.

According to Frost, talks this week between the UK and the EU focused on medicines, customs and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, “though other subjects have also been considered.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with David Frost, Ursula von Der Leyen and Michel Barnier after their dinner at the European Commission in Brussels in December last year. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The UK minister also confirmed that “significant gaps” remain across must issues, and stressed that a “durable solution” requires goods to be able to move freely into Northern Ireland when both sides agree that they are remaining in Northern Ireland.

“Looking forward, the United Kingdom’s preference remains to secure a solution based on consensus. But any such solution must constitute a significant change from the current situation, materially ease practical problems on the ground, and safeguard political, economic and societal stability in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Earlier, Frost said that the UK and the EU are likely to reach a deal on changes to the disputed Northern Ireland Protocol by Christmas.

ALSO READ – UK to auction Tipu’s throne finial worth £1.5 Mn

-Top News EU News

Talks with EU on Northern Ireland Protocol constructive, says Britain

British officials have made clear this is “yet another practical example” of why the Protocol isn’t working and why we need “common sense solutions” that reduce disruption to people’s everyday lives…reports Asian Lite News.

Britain and the European Union held “constructive” technical discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol, but substantial gaps remain on the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), according to a British government source.

“The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with – but the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance,” the source said on Saturday night.

“There’s been plenty of speculation about governance this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end,” it said.

British officials said solutions must be found quickly because disruption on the ground in Northern Ireland has not gone away and cannot be endured for much longer, citing reports that because of the protocol, supplies of Christmas crackers are being prevented from reaching Northern Ireland.

British officials have made clear this is “yet another practical example” of why the Protocol isn’t working and why we need “common sense solutions” that reduce disruption to people’s everyday lives.

After their first round of technical talks in Brussels, an EU negotiating team will travel to London on Tuesday for several days of intensive discussions. British Brexit Minister David Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic are due to meet in person in London for talks at the end of the week to take stock and assess progress so far.

Britain and the EU are getting back around the table to find a long-term solution to their post-Brexit trade dispute with Northern Ireland at the center.

They will aim to smooth trade through technical changes but also tackle the more challenging problem of the oversight role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland, on which both sides are far apart.

ALSO READ-UK seeks significant changes to NI Protocol

READ MORE-Iran warns to stop IAEA protocol inspections

-Top News Europe UK News

NI Executive to ease travel quarantine rules

Students arriving from red-list countries will be put into managed isolation facilities, it reported…reports Asian Lite News.

Northern Ireland has removed quarantine rules for people who have been fully vaccinated in the European Union or the United States, media reported.

This easing of the Covid-19 travel rules is in line with changes made in England, Scotland and Wales. The Northern Ireland Executive also decided to allow international cruises to restart from 31 July, the BBC reported.

Students arriving from red-list countries will be put into managed isolation facilities, it reported.

The pilot rollout for the expansion of the amber listed countries vaccinations policy is due to start on Monday 2 August.

It means all those coming from the US or from EU countries (except France) will not have to isolate.

There was also agreement that Villarreal football fans coming to Belfast for next month’s Uefa Super Cup final against Chelsea would not have to self-isolate, according to BBC.

The executive has also agreed the 1m (3ft) social distancing regulation will be applied in indoor settings such as supermarkets and shopping centres from 18:00 BST on Friday 30 July.

The 1m rule remains as guidance outdoors. It was also agreed that function rooms and community halls can put on live music from 30 July.

Plans to reopen conferences and exhibitions have been delayed – that will be considered in August.

A final decision to drop the wearing of masks in schools has also been delayed although earlier this month ministers said the wearing of face coverings may just be regarded as guidance when schools return, according to the BBC report.

ALSO READ-UK to drop quarantine for fully jabbed EU, US travellers

READ MORE-Only fully jabbed Saudi citizens can travel abroad

-Top News EU News UK News

‘EU-UK Ties At Crossroads’

European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic said the Northern Ireland protocol is a “cornerstone” of the Brexit deal, and called on the UK to respect its commitments, reports Asian Lite News

The relationship between the European Union (EU) and the UK is “at crossroads” amid the Northern Ireland row, warned Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of inter-institutional relations and foresight.

“We are at a crossroads, now we have a choice of which path to go down: either we are working together, with the UK abiding by its international obligations and engaging in a good faith. Or, the UK continues to take unilateral actions,” Sefcovic said at an event on Friday.

Sefcovic warned that a wrong choice could lead to a downward spiral, taking the attention of both parties away from what should be their main goal, building a strong strategic partnership, reports Xinua news agency.

Sefcovic was referring to the UK’s seemingly unwillingness “to find workable solutions” to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is aimed at implementing a soft border on the island of Ireland and preserve the peace induced by the Good Friday Agreement.

The protocol is a “cornerstone” of the Brexit deal, emphasised Sefcovic, calling on the UK to respect its commitments.

On June 9, officials from both sides held talks in London on the Northern Ireland Protocol ahead of the G7 Summit but produced no breakthroughs.

ALSO READ – UK calls EU view of Northern Ireland ‘offensive’

Tensions have been rising between the two sides on post-Brexit trade and a “grace period” for some border checks that will end at the end of this month.

According to reports, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said last week that the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol had been “very lopsided” and had had “real world effects” on the people.


He called for the EU to show “a bit of respect”.

Meanwhile, Sefcovic on Friday estimated that the EU had already shown great understanding by turning their “rules upside down and inside out”, and that they are ready to go “beyond flexibility” to make things work.

The implementation of the protocol has already led to violence, as riots erupted in Belfast in April.

Loyalists and nationalists claimed that the trade agreement would create barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to apply EU customs rules at its ports, to allow goods to flow into the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of inter-institutional relations and foresight. (Photo: twitter@MarosSefcovic)

This is known as the Irish sea border, a new trade border between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

The Belfast Agreement, or the Good Friday Agreement, is a set of agreements signed between the British and Irish governments as well as the major political parties in Northern Ireland on Good Friday, April 10, 1998.

The deal, viewed as a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process, had helped end a period of conflict in the region.

ALSO READ – EU, US vow cooperation in approach against China