1/ There are two Brexit meetings in London today. First, the Joint Committee which will be dominated by the row over the NI Protocol. Second, the inaugural Partnership Council at which issues related to wider UK-EU relations will be discussed. A (sorry not so brief) rundown 👇
2/ The Joint Committee will be by far the most difficult of the two. There has been a lot of rhetoric flying around on both sides in the last few days about who is to blame for the problems arising from checks in the Irish Sea, and how they can be fixed.
3/ Communities Secretary Rob Jenrick largely summed up the UK's position this morning. He said the EU is interpreting the controls required under the Protocol in an unexpectedly 'rigid and unpragmatic way' and that the Government is 'asking them to show some common sense'.
4/ The UK has, perhaps unsurprisingly, decided to pick on the pending chilled meats ban as an example of this. Jenrick says: 'It would be absurd if there were legal cases over whether a sausage manufactured in Birmingham could be exported to be sold in Sainsbury's in Belfast.'
5/ EU food safety rules state that chilled meats like sausages and burgers can't be imported into the Single Market. The two sides agreed a six month grace period during which these rules wouldn't apply to NI, to allow supermarkets there to adapt. That period runs out on June 31.
6/ The UK is now talking about unilaterally extending that derogation (as it has previously done for other grace periods). It says the point of the Protocol was to ensure the free flow of goods both North-South and East-West. The EU says the UK knew the rules it signed up to.
7/ There are many other issues related to the Protocol that are also causing friction, including the extent of checks on supermarket goods. Indeed, the UK is unhappy about the burden of controls required across the board and says they've having a 'chilling effect' on business.
8/ The reason the EU is wary about granting permanent exemptions on many of these issues, by the way, is because of the precedent it would set in terms of trade access to the Single Market. They don't want to open the door for other third countries to demand similar privileges.
9/ Brussels has floated offers of compromise on everything from availability of medicines to guide dogs and VAT on second hand cars, and says it's 'working with the UK on every measure feasibly possible'. But on the biggie, which is agrifood checks, the two sides are poles apart.
10/ The EU says the 'only solution' is a Swiss-style arrangement and the UK dynamically aligning with its plant and animal health rules. It says a New Zealand-style deal, where the sides would recognise each other's different rulebooks as equivalent, wouldn't solve the problem.
11/ But that has been rejected by the UK which says it would undermine its global trade talks. No 10 also strongly suspects this is a gambit to try and reopen last year's deal by the backdoor and secure a concession many EU countries wanted, but Michel Barnier failed to secure.
12/ The EU says it has recognised the UK's concerns about sovereignty by offering to make such a solution 'temporary' and that it could be reviewed once the UK has finished negotiating its major trade deals. 'We continue not to understand why they would not accept this option.'
13/ Is there a narrow window to a deal? Perhaps. The UK says the issues can be solved with tech solutions like trusted trader schemes. While the EU is sceptical in some areas, it insists it does recognise the UK's concerns and is open to 'a discussion on extended flexibilities'.
14/ Brussels is however adamant such talks can only take place once the UK starts implementing the Protocol properly. It says until that happens, it can't get a grip on how well the system is working and in particular the scale of the threat to the Single Market from smuggling.
15/ The EU complains the UK hasn't recruited and trained enough customs staff, has halted building permanent border control posts, and hasn't provided adequate IT infrastructure and access so it can track goods. 'The fundamental problem is we don’t have eyes on what’s going on.'
16/ 'Union representatives still can't follow movements of goods electronically and it seems UK not taking this issue seriously. The UK simply repeats that goods coming from GB pose no risk as if UK was still part of Single Market. This kind of approach we find deeply unhelpful.'
17/ If this can be sorted there's more room for EU flexibility. But only so much. 'Some of the UK requests go to the absolute core of the Protocol. I’m afraid very often calls for flexibility simply reflect the willingness of the UK not to respect its international obligations.'
18/ Away from NI there are various issues on the wider relationship that officials want to try and iron out through the Partnership Council. On the agenda today is a mix of UK and EU concerns covering fishing, customs checks, participation in EU programmes, and citizens' rights.
19/ France asked that the row over licenses for fishing in Jersey waters be discussed. Officials can see scope for a detente there. Similarly, the EU side will also bring up UK work visa fees, which discriminate between different Member States, and the detention of EU citizens.
20/ The UK wants to discuss the different approaches individual Member States are taking to carrying out customs checks on British goods. It will also raise the slowness of the EU to approve its participation in programmes like Horizon, and further boosting judicial cooperation.

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More from @nickgutteridge

17 May
At European Scrutiny Committee Lord Frost says UK has 'internalised EU law and EU ways of thinking over the last 50 years' and should use Brexit to get 'back to arrangements consistent with the lighter touch common law...the ability to experiment and develop things as we go on'.
He adds: 'One of the advantages we will get from Brexit is the opportunity to do things differently. I don't think we should accept that we're in the EU's regulatory orbit...we do need to develop our own ways of doing things and our own philosophy behind it.'
On the NI Protocol he says 'there's the risk of gaps opening up in regulation between NI and rest of UK' and cites reports about cancer drugs - which EU denies - saying 'that sort of thing is going to be a problem if we can't find pragmatic ways through it that protect our NHS'.
Read 17 tweets
15 Apr
1/ How time flies - there are now only two weeks left for the EU Parliament to ratify the Brexit trade deal before its provisional application runs out at the end of the month. There has long been an assumption in the end MEPs will put up and shut up, but is it quite that simple?
2/ So far the Parliament's main groupings have refused to set a date for the vote. But if it's going to happen, it's got to be at the April 26-29 plenary. In the meantime MEPs are carrying on laying the groundwork and the deal is set to clear its final committee hurdles today.
3/ What happens if they don't hold the vote in time? 1. The EU Commission asks for another extension which the UK would agree to, albeit under protest. Govt spox: 'We have agreed to extend the deadline for the EU...and we expect them to complete their processes to this timeline.'
Read 11 tweets
25 Mar
1/ Ex Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker says he's 'not a fan' of Ursula von der Leyen's export ban and 'I don't think this is the right way to do it'. He fears it will create 'major reputation damage' to the EU as a champion of free trade, in an interview with @BBCHARDtalk
2/ Juncker says: 'We have to pull back from a vaccine war. We have special relations with Britain, there's room for dialogue. Nobody understands why we're witnessing such a stupid vaccine war. This cannot be dealt with in a war atmosphere. We are not enemies, we are allies.'
3/ Juncker also admits the EU has messed up its rollout, but says the Member States share fault and VDL shouldn't resign. He says it was 'too cautious' approving vaccines and 'too budget conscious' in negotiations. The latter was 'a major mistake which should not have happened'.
Read 5 tweets
23 Mar
1/ The principle of 'reciprocity' of supply is at the heart of finding a solution to the UK-EU vaccines stand-off. But it's not a simple case of counting jabs export numbers. It's also about weighing each party's overall contribution to the development and production of vaccines.
2/ This is not only about finished vaccines, but also about international supply chains and the raw materials that go into them. Croda International, based in Yorkshire, provides lipid components for the Pfizer jab which is made here in Belgium, for example.
3/ And then there's the question of public funding towards the development of vaccines and scaling up of production. Should that count towards reciprocity? The UK contributed £88 million to getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab off the ground. Germany and the EU gave Pfizer funding.
Read 6 tweets
16 Mar
EMA boss Emer Cooke on AstraZeneca vaccine: 'At present there is no indication vaccination has caused these conditions. We’re still firmly convinced the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk of side-effects.' Its evaluation into the jab's safety will conclude on Thursday.
EMA boss Emer Cooke: 'We are looking at adverse events associated with all vaccines. We have looked at the background rates for all the vaccines currently in circulation and it looks like there are similar numbers coming in across the world.'
EMA boss Emer Cooke: 'The decisions that are taken at a national level are being taken in the context of the information that’s available at national level, and it's the countries’ prerogative to do so. It’s our responsibility to focus on the science associated with these risks.'
Read 5 tweets
3 Mar
1/ So, just two months into the new UK-EU relationship we've already reached the point where the two sides are arguing over what constitutes a breach of the NI Protocol. Britain says it's done nothing wrong. Brussels is fuming. What's up? thesun.co.uk/news/14224105/…
2/ The latest row is about the UK's announcement that it plans to unilaterally extend grace periods exempting goods going from GB to NI from EU checks. These were agreed in the NI Protocol and are due to expire at the end of the month. But the UK is prolonging them until Oct 1.
3/ Today's announcement concerned health certificates usually required when moving products of animal origin. But later this week the UK is also expected to bring forward similar measures covering parcels and shipments of goods containing soil like pot plants and seed potatoes.
Read 15 tweets

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