Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncoveney has said there could be freer flowing trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Protocol if the UK agreed to align more closely to EU food safety and animal and plant health standards.
2/ A vetinary agreement between both sides, or some form of “equivalence” arrangement, could lower trade barriers in areas where the UK is demanding flexibility from the European Commission, such as seed potatoes, seeds, potted plants, and pets, he said.
3/ Speaking following a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Mr Coveney said: “In some of those cases the UK government has the capacity to facilitate that change if they want to agree to a different approach when it comes to equivalence of standards, for example.
4/ "So, if we had equivalence in terms of veterinary standards and SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary rules], that would create fewer barriers to free flowing trade.”

He said that many Northern Ireland businesses were positively disposed to such an idea.
5/ Mr Coveney also said the EU was prepared to be “flexible” and “generous” in easing the burden of the Protocol on NI businesses, but the UK had to follow through on its commitments to the EU last December, such as a promise to give EU observers real time access to customs data,
6/ ...and to provide data on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

“When the EU made compromises in a pragmatic way to try to get agreement on implementation they expected that the British government would follow through on those commitments,” he told reporters.
7/ Asked about the joint unionist legal action to seek to overturn the Protocol, Mr Coveney said “people had a right” to take legal challenges. However, the Protocol was now part of international law.
8/ “Of course, people have a right to legally challenge anything they want to, but you know this has been voted on in the British Parliament. It's part of an international treaty now, and I think we have an obligation to be honest with people.

“The protocol is here to stay.”
9/ Mr Coveney said the European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and the UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove had been working to find pragmatic solutions, with input from the Irish government.
10/ He added: “But let's not forget the context here. Brexit and the decisions around Brexit are what are causing the disruption. The Protocol was put in place to try to limit the disruption where possible, and it was signed up to by all sides...
11/ "...and designed by both the British government and the EU working together, and we have an obligation now to try and make sure that it works for everybody,” he said.

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More from @tconnellyRTE

23 Feb
NEW: update on the earlier thread on @MarosSefcovic's comments on the NI Protocol...
2/ Following today's Specialised Committee mtg, which prepares the groundwork for tomorrow's more political Joint Committee (@michaelgove + Sefcovic), the message is that if the EU is to agree any extensions to grace periods they must be a bridge to a permanent settled state
3/ And any extensions will only be considered if the UK is showing it is implementing the Dec 17 Gove-Sefcovic deal on the Protocol (ie, granting access to databases etc)
Read 15 tweets
23 Feb
.@MarosSefcovic [on the NI Protocol]: there are "consequences" of the UK leaving the EU and becoming a third country. This is very well reflected in the Protocol and in the TCA.
2/ "The EU will always remain constructive and solution driven, but I've also reminded my British partners that this must be a two way street. We've had a very intense session in Dec to make sure entry points [ie BCPs] would be up and ready by the middle of this year...
3/ "...that we would have real time access to the IT customs systems which would smooth further customs formalities, that we would more information on how the trusted trader scheme is working for GB distributors to make sure supermkts in NI are properly supplied."
Read 10 tweets
22 Feb
The Chair of the European Parliament's UK Coordination Group @davidmcallister has said there will be no “thorough review” of the NI Protocol, nor any amendments to it.
2/ However, he said there should be "flexible" and "pragmatic" solutions found, so long as they were in line with the principles at the heart of the Protocol.
3/ These principles were “to avoid a hard border between the Republic and NI, to enable the true functioning of the all-island economy and safeguarding the GFAin all its dimensions, and to ensure the integrity of our single market for goods..."
Read 9 tweets
22 Feb
NEW: The European Commission has said it is “fully committed” to the Good Friday Agreement and to the proper implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
2/ Asked for its response to the legal action supported by the main NI unionist parties and a number of British politicians against the Protocol, on the basis that it contravenes both the 1800 Act of Union and the Good Friday Agreement...
3/ ... European Commission spokesman Dan Ferrie said the Protocol was about “protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland...
Read 8 tweets
11 Feb
Joint statement following Gove Šefčovič meeting:

After a frank but constructive discussion, and taking into account the views expressed on 3 February by the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, the two co-chairs agreed to:
2/ reiterate their full commitment to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, and to the proper implementation of the Protocol – protecting the gains of the peace process, maintaining stability, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and impacting as little as possible...
3/ ...on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland
•spare no effort to implement solutions mutually agreed on 17 December, as they form a foundation for our cooperation
Read 6 tweets
10 Feb
BREAKING: European Commission Maros Sefcovic has told @michaelgove that sweeping changes to the Protocol will not be possible, and that any flexibilities require the UK for its part to implement the terms of last December's NI Protocol
2/ In a letter responding to last week's letter from Gove @MarosSefcovic sets out a list of areas where he says the UK is not in compliance with the NI Protocol.s
3/ He says Border Control Posts at NI Ports are "not yet fully operational", official controls at the Posts are "not performed in compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement" and that there are "very few identity checks"
Read 15 tweets

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