The European Commission today warned that the UK would soon have to start showing genuine proof for the construction of border control posts in the region, as well as grant eurocrats access to customs databases in the coming weeks. The intervention comes ahead of a crunch meeting over the Brexit deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border in London between Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic. They will discuss how to continue work on implementing the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol amid growing concerns that the post-Brexit border fix is causing tensions in the region.
A senior eurocrat claimed that Britain could be hit by retaliatory trade tariffs unless Downing Street agrees to play to the bloc’s tune.
The Commission official said: “Our patience is wearing thin, and if this continues, the EU will have to consider all the tools and all the options that are available to us.”
Under the terms of the Brexit trade agreement either side can impose tariffs on the other’s exports for breaching the pact, pending independent arbitration.
The insider argued that Britain continues to avoid implementing the terms of the 2019 Brexit divorce deal that was signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
They claimed the EU had been pragmatic and flexible in offering solutions can could help limit the number of customs controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
But the official insisted the Commission would need to stand ready for a “more confrontational approach” by the British Government.
Brussels is already furious that No10 unilaterally scrapped swathes of EU red tape designed to protect the bloc’s single market.
To keep the Irish border open, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.
Lord Frost has expressed concerns that the EU’s bureaucratic approach could pose a security risk on Northern Ireland.
The Brexit minister warned the EU’s “legal purism” poses a security threat to the region and is making the situation on the ground “totally unsustainable”.
Ahead of his meeting with Mr Sefcovic, he said: “We are seeing political turbulence, with the loss of First Minister Arlene Foster, the change of the UUP leadership and street protests. And there are real world impacts on lives and livelihoods.”
The Tory peer insisted that suppliers in the UK are “simply not sending their products because of the time-consuming paperwork required”.
He added: “We’ve seen manufacturers of medicines cutting supply. And there is less choice on supermarket shelves for consumers. The NI Retail Consortium has warned that when the grace period ends in October, supermarkets will face ‘real, severe problems’.”
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Britain’s refusal to bow down to the EU’s demands prompted accusations that Lord Frost is more focused on “media messaging” rather than problem-solving.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said: “Lord Frost continues to lay blame for difficulty with the Protocol at EU inflexibility.
“This is simply not the case. Maros Sefcovic and the EU have consistently proposed new solutions.
“Is this about media messaging in the UK or really solving problems together?”
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune added: “The Northern Ireland Protocol cannot be called into question.
“It’s not the problem, it’s the solution to a problem we didn’t create.”