Brussels, 5 November 2021
Statement by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič following his meeting today with David Frost on the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland:
We just finished a meeting with David Frost and his team to discuss the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. This was our third meeting at our level, following the Commission’s package of far-reaching solutions for Northern Ireland three weeks ago.
The Commission has been engaging intensively with the UK to find common ground between our respective positions – and to bring stability and predictability for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
We have spared no effort in preparing this package and bringing it across the finishing line. Our package, as a whole, will provide significant changes for operators on the ground.
In practice, our proposal would create a type of “Express lane”.
Customs-related red tape would be cut in half. A significant range of retail goods would also benefit from simplified certification. This would result in a reduction of up to 80 percent of SPS checks.
It is a whole new model for how goods can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It would result in strengthened opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland.
This was a big move by us. But until today, we have seen no move at all from the UK side. I find this disappointing and once again, I urge the UK government to engage with us sincerely.
From this perspective, I see next week as an important one. We should focus all efforts on reaching a solution as soon as possible. Our aim should be to establish stability and predictability for Northern Ireland.
We hear a lot about Article 16 at the moment. Let there be no doubt that triggering Article 16 – to seek the renegotiation of the Protocol – would have serious consequences.
Serious for Northern Ireland, as it would lead to instability and unpredictability.
And serious also for EU-UK relations in general, as it would mean a rejection of EU efforts to find a consensual solution to the implementation of the Protocol.
Discussions will continue at expert level and I am committed to travelling to London on 12 November.
I am equally committed on the issue of medicines – and remain ready to do whatever it takes to ensure their long-term uninterrupted supply to Northern Ireland, by changing our own EU rules.
Lastly, we also exchanged views on the pending issue of French fisheries licences.
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement is clear: vessels that were fishing in the territorial waters of the UK and the Crown Dependencies should be allowed to continue.
All French vessels entitled to a licence should receive one.
I support Commissioner Sinkevičius in his ongoing efforts to find a solution.
Thank you for your attention.