Brexit: UK 'will diversify away from EU' says expert
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The EU’s chief negotiator publicly branded the move as “irresponsible” at a business summit in Brussels. His intervention came ahead of tonight’s crisis talks between Michael Gove and Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic over the Northern Ireland border row. Mr Barnier insisted the decision to trigger the Brexit deal’s Article 16 to impose hard border was a “clear mistake”.
The Frenchman said: “It’s clear that it was a mistake. But it was immediately corrected three hours afterwards.
“Both parties must be conscious of their responsibilities in applying this protocol.
“The situation has never been easy in Ireland and everything is complex. So I recommend personally everybody on both sides be responsible and take care.”
And Irish premier Micheal Martin also expressed anger at the strategy after learning of eurocrats’ plans from social media.
Amid concerns that tensions are still boiling point, Mr Martin today ordered France’s Emmanuel Macron to cut out his Brit-bashing rhetoric.
The Irish PM said: “I worry a bit about the post-Brexit noise from EU member states towards Britain and vice versa.”
He added: “I would tell one or two of them that they need to cool it, dial it down.
“This isn’t an ongoing battle between the UK and some of the bigger beasts of Europe. Let’s move away from that. They need to cool it. We’ll be collateral damage in all of that.
“Everybody needs to cool it a bit.”
Mr Macron’s government has actively sought to undermine Britain’s vaccine strategy and questioned the effectiveness of the Oxford-produced AstraZeneca jab to deflect attention away from the EU’s sluggish roll-out.
European insiders say Brussels is open to extending grace periods from red tape to ease trade GB-NI trade flows.
One source said discussions over delaying the reintroduction of trade barriers would be the “starting point” of the wrangling between Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic.
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As it stands, an EU ban on British sausages and burgers being sent to Northern Ireland will be reintroduced on April 1, sparking new trade disruptions.
The Government has called for the grace periods to be extended for two years, until 2023.
Similar arrangements that protect the glow of supermarket goods, parcels, medicines and pets, are also set to expire soon.
EU chiefs have signalled the bloc is unwilling to ease checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea and rejected a wholesale renegotiation of the divorce deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent a hard border.
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To keep the Irish border open, the region effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on products arriving from the rest of the UK.
Britain has urged the EU to take “urgent steps” to prevent the Northern Ireland border row from spiralling out of control.
Mr Gove believes EU chiefs have failed to realise the “shock and anger” they have caused by threatening peace process.
A Government spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the Commission has failed to acknowledge the shock and anger felt right across the community in Northern Ireland from its decision to trigger Article 16, and the need to take urgent steps to restore confidence as a result.
“The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will underline the need for such action and political leadership in this regard when meeting with Vice-President Sefcovic in London.”
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