UK unilaterally extends NI Protocol grace period by six months

The United Kingdom government has unilaterally decided to extend the grace period for supermarket agri-food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland from April 1 to October 1.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:37 pm

After October 1 supermarkets will have to provide specific certification but along with a digital assistance scheme it will introduced gradually.

“As part of the pragmatic and proportionate implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Government is taking several temporary operational steps to avoid disruptive cliff-edges as engagement with the EU continues through the Joint Committee," said Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis

“These recognise that appropriate time must be provided for businesses to implement new requirements and support the effective flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

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He added: “For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on February 24, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland (STAMNI) will continue until October 1.

“Certification requirements will then be introduced in phases alongside the roll out of the digital assistance scheme.”

The temporary nature of the government's move is unlikely to satisfy the DUP.

Speaking before Secretary of State Lewis published his written statement, DUP MP for East Antrim, Sammy Wilson, said temporary extensions to grace periods were not good enough.

Lorries leaving Larne Port. (Photo: PA Wire)

"We need a reset of the agreement and a move towards the mutual enforcement model," he said.

It is believed the European Commission was aware of the decision before it was formally announced by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

Economist Raoul Ruparel described the move by the government as a "gamble".

"UK unilaterally extending grace period on agrifood to NI by 6 months. Hard to see how this is allowed under the Protocol.

"I suspect UK gamble is that because its temporary & part of step to full requirements scope for EU objection/action limited," he said.

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