NI protocol vague and lacking in detail on customs and tariffs – Minister

Minster for European Affairs Helen McEntee Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs has said the detail in the Northern Ireland protocol is vague and does not provide enough information around customs and tariffs.

The protocol contained in the Withdrawal Treaty is the arrangement by which Northern Ireland continues to follow single market rules for goods and administers the EU’s customs code at its ports.

The British Government has acknowledged that regulatory checks will be needed on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, with the expansion of infrastructure to carry out screening of animals and food products.

It has also insisted there will be no new physical customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

Helen McEntee told the Dail the Irish Government welcomed the UK publishing its own approach to implementing the protocol but said concerns remain.

“In terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, I am not saying there has been backsliding on it so far. However, what has been presented so far, is not adequate and does not provide enough information.”

“It is very welcome that the UK has provided a paper because it now recognises the need for some form of checks going from the UK into Northern Ireland particular on animal products and SPS. However around customs, tariffs and VAT – there is not much detail.”

“The paper has some positive elements to it and I welcome the clear recognition for the need for checks on agri-foods entering Northern Ireland and for the new border control infrastructure.”

“We need the UK to provide the technical detail necessary to make the protocol fully operational by the end of the year.”

The Irish Government will be intensifying Brexit preparedness work given the limited progress in Brexit talks to date, she said.

“Whatever the outcome of these talks, Ireland’s trading relationship with the UK will change. Given the limited progress in negotiations to date and the uncertainty due to Covid-19, Ireland will intensify its Brexit preparedness work.

“This is not about admitting defeat, this is about risk management. Ireland still supports the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK but we must be prepared.”

Earlier, Ms McEntee said what the UK is asking for and what it is seeking is “unprecedented”.

“They’re looking for recognition of their professional qualifications, they’re looking for their own custom rules and procedures to be recognised as equivalent to ours while not committing to any kind of compliance checks or monitoring.

“What they’re asking for and what they are seeking is unprecedented, it’s not like any other kind of relationship, they don’t seem to want to commit to any of the rules,” she told RTE Morning Ireland

Ireland is in line to receive 3 billion euro from the European Commission’s 750 billion euro Covid-19 recovery fund.

Ms McEntee said the proposed amount is an “initial examination” of what has been put forward by the commission.

She said there are a number of concerns around some of the proposals put forward on how funding is being allocated.

“What was important for us was to make sure that we had a substantial package that targeted businesses that would be able to support member states and specific areas, but of course we will be helping to get as much support as possible,” she said.