David Frost tells the Lords the NI Protocol has been 'the source of considerable and ongoing disruption to lives and livelihoods' and that 'the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16'. But he says 'it's not the time to do so' and talks with the EU will continue.
Lord Frost says there should be an agreed 'standstill period' during which all grace periods stay in force and EU legal action over alleged breaches of the Protocol are frozen. He says this would 'ensure there is room to negotiate' and 'provide a genuine signal of good intent'.
Lord Frost concedes the UK's proposals would require 'significant changes to the Protocol text' itself. He adds: 'We hope the EU will see that the prize of a settlement which is durable and which allows us to move on is worth the process. We must keep our eyes on the prize.'
Lord Frost says UK proposals on NI Protocol 'wouldn’t totally eliminate the problem' in terms of East-West checks but 'would make it a lot easier to work'. He adds the UK's 'minimum' ask is goods can move in a 'much more free-flowing, open way' and that 'time is running out'.
Lord Frost says the EU's insistence on alignment with its SPS rules or accepting checks is 'a political position' and 'it isn’t a depiction of some sort of existential reality about the world'. He adds: 'They could change their rules in the context of NI if they wanted to.'
He continues: 'The EU...view is that unless you’re dynamically aligned with them and they have some control over it there have to be checks. We don’t accept that. We don’t see why in the context of NI there couldn’t be a more understanding and risk-based approach.'
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'.
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'.
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.'
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'.
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.
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.'
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.
1/ Trade Secretary Liz Truss will travel to Brussels tomorrow for talks with EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis. She will urge the EU to join forces with Britain and the US to tackle China's 'appalling behaviour' on the world stage. thesun.co.uk/news/14089864/…
2/ The talks will centre on matters of global trade, not the EU-UK trading relationship which is Lord Frost's domain. On the world stage Ms Truss wants to 'work hand-in-glove' with both Europe and the US, 'particularly on challenging China to play fair and clean up its act'.
3/ The meeting comes after the EU published a new trade policy today that warns the 'rapid rise of China affects a level playing field for European companies competing globally and at home' and says Europe needs 'the tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices'.
Liam Smyth, from the British Chambers of Commerce, tells a Commons International Trade Committee about the Brexit deal: 'We're becoming increasingly aware of businesses that are simply turning away from international trade. We worry the pace of this is going to accelerate.'
Fergus McReynolds, from manufacturing industry representatives Make UK, says 'there's a lot we can do under the structures of the TCA to improve' the situation regarding barriers to trade. He adds: 'Our priority is making sure those supply chains thrive in the new relationship.'
Liam Smyth says firms are seeing a 'significant increase' in costs of moving freight and from extra paperwork. 'A factor is the availability of drivers prepared to come from the EU to drop a load in the UK, then take another load back. Empty trucks tell you they're not happy.'
1/ Some EU frustration at UK griping over trade problems and suggestions Brussels needs to improve its attitude to make the relationship work better. There's a feeling of déjà vu, that the UK never really accepted the practical reality of the deal it wanted and still doesn't.
2/ In particular there's exasperation that the UK is moaning about the deal not including arrangements that it ruled out itself to keep its own red lines intact. It's seen as a pattern of behaviour - first there was visa-free travel for musicians, now it's shellfish.
3/ EU sources say the lack of provisions on shellfish exports was brought up numerous times in the talks as a concern. But the UK refused to engage, as it did on wider SPS issues, over fears of 'being drawn into the EU's regulatory sphere'.
Gove compares the first weeks of UK-EU relations to turbulence after take off. 'Eventually you reach a cruising attitude and the crew tell you to take your seatbelts off and enjoy a G&T and some peanuts. We’re not at the G&T and peanuts stage yet but I’m confident we will be.'
Ex UK negotiator Lord Frost says the EU 'is still adjusting somewhat to the existence of a genuinely independent actor in its neighbourhood'. Adds: 'I hope we’ll get over this. It is going to require a different spirit probably from the EU, but I’m sure we are going to see that.'
Michael Gove says the figure given for exports from the UK to EU falling by 68% since the start of the year 'was erroneous and based on a partial survey'.
Cabinet office official Emma Churchill says 'trade flows have held up exceptionally well since the end of the Transition Period' despite a dip in early January. This month total outbound across all UK ports is 98% of the equivalent last year and inbound trade is at 99%, she says.
* This should have said GB ports, as the figures quoted relate to GB-EU trade. Jessica Glover, another Cabinet Office official, separately said GB-NI trade flows are 'back to normal and indeed are slightly higher now than they were in the equivalent week last year'.
Michael Gove: 'It is still of concern that as things stand the EU reserve the right potentially to return to Article 16 in this area. I think there needs to be a realisation on all sides this isn't some arcane bit of diplomatic procedure, this is real consequences on the ground.'
Michael Gove says issues arising from the NI Protocol 'can be solved pragmatically'. E.g: 'It doesn't threaten the integrity of the EU Single Market to have bulbs ordered from a wholesaler in Scotland or England, which will then be planted in a garden in Belfast or Ballymena.'
Gove adds: 'If people put a particular type of integrationist theology ahead of the interests of the people of NI they aren't serving the cause of peace and progress. There are very good people in the EU's institutions and architecture who take incredibly seriously these issues.'
1/ As the dust settles, how is Ursula von der Leyen being judged over the EU's vaccine rollout? There are varying views, but all agree that the Commission has made mistakes, and all equally agree its President is under no pressure whatsoever to resign. thetimes.co.uk/article/the-eu…
2/ There is widespread frustration across Member States about the pace of the EU's vaccines programme. There is harsh criticism, too, of VDL's working methods which involve relying on a very small number of advisers. Though she's hardly the first leader to face that accusation.
3/ Some critics say the Commission saw an opportunity to 'act like a Government' in the hope it would take the glory for the vaccines rollout. But now that the programme has run into trouble it doesn't want to take the responsibility in the same way national governments have to.
1/ Brexit talks nugget: The two sides have wrapped up negotiations on public procurement. The UK will give European companies bidding for public sector contracts 'equal treatment' to British ones and vice-versa, Michel Barnier briefed MEPs. He called it 'a very good agreement'.
2/ Throughout the talks the UK had been insisting the public procurement provisions should be based on WTO rules, but it has shifted that stance late in the day. The UK sought generous terms in this area with Japan and is doing so in talks with the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
3/ EU figures estimate public sector spending makes up about 15 per cent of GDP in most developed economies, so this is a really important issue for both sides. European firms have huge financial interests in the UK - from running rail franchises to making the new blue passports.
1/ As Brexit talks enter what might be their last few hours, the key hurdle to overcome is how to agree on what the EU calls 'managed divergence' and the UK has dubbed 'lightning tariffs'. Despite the doom and gloom, there are signs the sides aren't quite as far apart as appears.
2/ The EU has dropped its insistence on a 'ratchet clause' which would have formalised the principle both sides should keep up with each other's standards. It's now ready to cater for divergence in the future so long as there are strong safeguards to rebalance unfair competition.
3/ This is a shift from the EU, which previously rejected managed divergence as too messy and risky for its economies. They worried it would create constant uncertainty for them. It thus represents a fair departure from the EU's opening position on LPF.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Brexit: 'Positions remain apart on fundamental issues. On the Level Playing Field we have repeatedly made clear to our UK partners that the principle of fair competition is a precondition to privileged access to the EU market.'
Ursula von der Leyen: 'It is the largest single market in the world and it is only fair that competitors to our own enterprises face the same conditions. But this is not to say that we would require the UK to follow us every time we decide to raise our level of ambition.'
Ursula von der Leyen: 'They would remain free - sovereign if you wish - to decide what they want to do. We would simply adapt the conditions for access to our market according to the decision of the UK and this would apply vice-versa.'
An EU Commission spokesman now says Brexit talks may not wrap up tomorrow after all and that they will 'hopefully continue after' the meeting between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the timing of which is still unconfirmed.
EU Commission spokesman says of the planned meeting between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen: 'That's not where the negotiations happen. The meeting will be to try and lift substantial impasses so then the negotiators can continue their work.'
EU Commission spokesman on Brexit talks: 'We're willing to continue the discussions for as long as necessary.'
1/ What are the ‘new’ demands the UK says the EU has made in the Brexit talks and are they actually new? There are 3 specific areas of contention that have emerged, one each on state aid rules, the Level Playing Field/Governance, and fish. None of them should be a total surprise.
2/ First, on state aid. The UK says the EU wants the Commission and European Investment Bank to be given carve-outs from the subsidy control provisions in the deal. It says this would create an unfair imbalance, because there would be no similar exemption for British authorities.
3/ This is particularly relevant in light of the bloc's €750bn Coronavirus recovery fund. It has already been delayed by an internal political row, and the EU is keen to ensure that isn't exacerbated by legal disputes with the UK next year. Brussels denies this is anything new.