NI First Minister Givan gives a welcome to Protocol grace periods

First Minister Paul Givan speaking to the media at Stormont. Picture date: Monday September 6, 2021.First Minister Paul Givan speaking to the media at Stormont. Picture date: Monday September 6, 2021.
First Minister Paul Givan speaking to the media at Stormont. Picture date: Monday September 6, 2021.
Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan has welcomed the UK’s extension to the so-called Brexit grace periods on trading arrangements for the region.

UK Brexit minister Lord Frost confirmed on Monday that the Government will continue its “current basis” approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol (see opposite) as he looks to secure concessions from Brussels on how the cross-border terms are operated.

The announcement, which had been hinted at by Downing Street, commits to another grace period rollover, enacted to ensure there are no further blockages to trade across the Irish Sea next month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Givan, of the DUP, has welcomed the announcement, but said it is “not the solution”.

He said: “I welcome the unilateral action that the United Kingdom Government has taken in respect of extending the grace periods, and no longer is there a fixed date being applied to that.

“There is now an indefinite timeframe in respect of those grace periods taking place. So that will help.”

He added: “Ultimately, it’s not the solution in terms of having the certainty that is required for the business community as well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“But they know the type of framework that they have to operate and the DUP is very clear, in terms of the implications of the protocol.

“Jeffrey Donaldson will be outlining this in a keynote address later in the week, and the party will be spelling out the actions that we’re going to be taking to make sure that we get the kind of progress that is necessary.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has called on Lord Frost to take a collaborative approach with the European Commission to ensure the smooth implementation of the protocol.

Junior minister at the NI Executive Office, Declan Kearney, said Lord Frost, as the man who negotiated the protocol, “knows what needs to be done to ensure that we have smooth operation of the protocol”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Kearney, standing in for Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill who is recovering from Covid, acknowledged there are “a number of issues that remain to be resolved in terms of the smooth operation of the protocol”.

He said the flow of medicines into Northern Ireland was one such issue, and that “work is taking place behind the scenes to ensure that we address that particular issue”.

He added: “I think that the European Commission have become increasingly sighted and sensitised to the fact that there are a number of anomalies and difficulties that need to be smoothed out.

“The next stage and all of that, then, is to ensure that there is a landing zone in terms of political willingness, and that requires unanimity of purpose by both the European Commission and the British Government.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“And I think that David Frost now must state very clearly that he is prepared to invest the level of political willingness that is required to ensure that we get a collaborative resolution to all of these difficulties.

“He hasn’t said that yet. I would urge him to do so.”

Mr Kearney said a visit by European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic to Northern Ireland this week represents an “opportunity” to work out issues related to the protocol.

The protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, avoiding a hard border with Ireland but creating additional bureaucratic barriers for goods crossing from Great Britain.

Speaking before Lord Frost’s announcement, Ireland’s deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar said he expected an extension to the current grace periods.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I think there is a high probability that it will happen, we are certainly open to it,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Varadkar said he expected the EU would agree to an extension in order to allow “deep and meaningful” talks about the protocol.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor