Brexit does not end even when it ends. London and Brussels have agreed on Tuesday to extend, at the request of the EU, until April 30, 2021, the provisional application of the trade agreement closed on Christmas Eve and that the United Kingdom ratified on December 30. And in Brussels, the ratification process by the European Parliament has yet to be concluded, for which the 1,246 pages of the agreement are being translated into some twenty languages.
“Today we have agreed to extend the deadline for the EU to ratify the agreement until April 30,” explain British government sources: “It is disappointing that the EU has not completed its internal processes within the agreed timeframe, given the uncertainty it creates for companies and individually on both sides. We expect the EU to meet the new schedule. ”
This Tuesday’s agreement recognizes that “the European Union will not be able, due to internal procedural requirements, to ratify the Trade and Cooperation Agreement before February 28, 2021”, therefore it is set “April 30, 2021 as date on which the provisional period must cease “and the” Trade and Cooperation Agreement “enter into force.
This Wednesday, in addition, the Joint EU-United Kingdom Committee on the Brexit Agreement meets by videoconference, organized by the United Kingdom, between the British negotiator, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, and the Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič. The agenda includes an unfinished business since the diplomatic crisis following AstraZeneca’s problems with the distribution of vaccines in the EU: the Northern Ireland protocol, for which London has requested an extension until 2023, due to the problems that are being created in the ports of Northern Ireland, where border controls have to be carried out so that the invisible border between the two Irish is respected.
But it is the agreement that Johnson wanted, which Theresa May fell for, with which he won an election and was sanctioned by the British Parliament. The May deal meant a softer Brexit, but kept the border invisible in Ireland and did not create customs controls in the Irish Sea. But the agreement that Johnson signed does establish it, and this Wednesday, with the letter sent to Brussels and his statements against that control in the Irish Sea, he raises suspicions in Brussels about whether London intends to rewrite the Brexit agreement.
The situation worsened to the point that the Government of Northern Ireland announced the temporary suspension of physical controls on products of animal origin that arrive in the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom, due to the proliferation of threats from unionist paramilitary groups. In the ports of Belfast and Larne have been found graffiti in which employees were identified as possible “targets” and after having seen people pointing license plates of their vehicles.
And these controls are the ones that the United Kingdom wants to keep suspended for the longest time: the Jonson Government has asked the European Commission in writing for an extension of the Brexit grace periods until 2023 on trade controls between Northern Ireland and the rest from the UK to adapt to the new situation. In his letter, he calls for temporary exemptions to be maintained for supermarket products, pharmaceuticals, chilled meats and packages crossing the island of Great Britain into Northern Ireland. “We have to ensure that grace periods are extended so that supermarkets can continue to provide consumers with the goods they need,” UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said in the House of Commons.
However, Brussels, for the moment, has not accepted this request, and in successive meetings they have promised to “reiterate their full commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to the proper implementation of the Protocol. [de Irlanda del Norte], protecting the achievements of the peace process, maintaining stability and avoiding disruption to the daily lives of the people of Northern Ireland and a hard border on the island of Ireland. ”
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