In February the EU introduced export controls for Covid vaccines, famously including the carriage of vaccines from south to north across the Irish land border.
The EU thinks that it could have a problem with goods crossing from north to south not meeting EU requirements – although so far it has published no evidence that this would be a significant problem – but the UK could generously, and moreover unilaterally, solve the EU’s problem for them by the introduction of export licences for actors in the north who intend to take goods across the border.
By the simple legal and administrative step of issuing export licences on the clearly-stated condition that the goods to be exported to the Republic must comply with EU requirements, the UK would not only obviate any need for EU checks on goods entering NI, both from Great Britain and from foreign sources, but also remove any need for the UK to enforce EU Single Market rules on all businesses in the province.
In turn that would neutralise the EU’s excuse for the EU court to assume extra-territorial jurisdiction to ensure that EU Single Market rules were still being observed in this part of the sovereign UK.
The system for export licences should be simple and flexible and licences should be obtainable over the internet and without any fee.
A regular cross-border trader could have a long term licence, a haulage company might have a single use licence to take a particular consignment to the south.
There could be de minimis exemptions for foodstuffs and other goods intended for personal or family consumption and small gifts.
None of this is beyond the wit of man to devise and refine once the principle has been established.
Dr D R Cooper, Maidenhead, Berkshire
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