Nigel Farage mocks Remainers over Brexit fears
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The European Commission said the decision not to escalate infringement proceedings was to create the “necessary space” to consider No10’s proposals for overhauling the protocol to avoid a hard border. Eurocrats triggered the legal action in March, accusing the UK of breaching international law by temporary suspending EU-ordered checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. Ministers argued the move to unilaterally delay enforcing the red tape was to protect supermarket supplies and trade to the region.
Brussels’ decision to pause the proceedings comes amid rising tensions over the post-Brexit border fix after the bloc rejected the Government’s plan to protect peace in Northern Ireland.
Brexit minister Lord Frost last week called for the Brexit deal’s Protocol to be reworked because its tough border checks risk food shortages and disorder.
He proposed a “standstill” period, preserving the current grace periods and suspending legal action taken by the EU against the UK while the changes are negotiated.
Talks in Brussels between Cabinet Office officials and the Commission will continue tomorrow over the Government’s proposals.
Lord Frost was said to also be in regular contact with counterpart EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic.
Whitehall officials have received a “constructive reply” from the Commission in response to the request for a standstill on existing arrangements.
A Government spokeswoman added: “We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead to progress the proposals in our command paper.
“As we set out in the Command Paper last week, significant changes are needed to ensure the Protocol is sustainable for future.”
The discussions are expected to continue over the summer with a series of looming deadlines to implement further border controls, such as an EU ban on the sale of British sausages, in Northern Ireland.
The Withdrawal Agreement’s Protocol was negotiated because of the region’s land border with the Republic of Ireland in the EU.
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To keep the frontier open, Northern Ireland effectively remains in the bloc’s single market, with controls on products shipped from the rest of the UK.
As part of a wholesale renegotiation of the measures, Lord Frost wants to eliminate all checks on all goods GB-registered firms have declared the region is the products final destination.
He also wants to strip the European Court of Justice’s role in managing the Protocol from the treaty.
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Brussels has rejected completely overhauling the agreement but has promised to work on creative solutions to address the burdens of EU red tape on Northern Ireland.
A Commission spokeswoman said: “With regards to the request for a standstill, the Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally and with the European Parliament.
“In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided at this stage not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March.”
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