Brexit: NI Protocol is ‘only solution’ despite challenges – BBC

  • In a tweet on Tuesday night, DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr Sefcovic must talk to “those hardest hit” by the Northern Ireland Protocol and those who opposed it when he conducts his meetings later this week.
  • The Northern Ireland Protocol is the part of the Brexit deal which prevents a hardening of the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It does that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods. That has created a new trade border with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
  • Mr Sefcovic was facing questions about the events, which led to the commission invoking Article 16. Mr Sefcovic said a mistake was made and Article 16 was never actually activated. “We made the mistake, we acknowledged it, we corrected it.”
  • He said measures had been put in place to make sure it did not happen again. This includes a “clearing house” through which all issues relating to Northern Ireland must be assessed and evaluated. The UK government has asked the EU for a long extension of “grace periods” where not all aspects of the protocol, relating to checks on goods, have been implemented.
  • Mr Sefcovic said the implementation of the protocol was a “two-way street” and the UK government has more to do. He said that included giving the EU access to the UK’s customs and trade IT systems.

Brexit forces Northern Ireland buyers to cancel orders for 100,000 trees – The Guardian

  • Orders for almost 100,000 trees have been cancelled by Northern Ireland buyers because of a post-Brexit ban on the plants being moved from Britain, the Guardian can reveal. Leaders in the business say it is a major setback for tree-planting programmes in Belfast and elsewhere in the region.
  • The Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland has just cancelled an order for 22,000 trees, which were destined for schools and communities as part of a Northern Ireland greening project.
  • The horticulture division that Brexit has created between Britain and Northern Ireland is expected to be raised at meeting between local business leaders and the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, on Thursday. The issue is one of many problems caused by Brexit, including a ban on the export of live shellfish to the EU.
  • “We thought it would be teething problems that would be resolved quickly. It just seems ludicrous really,” said Fulton. “The irony is that I can now get a tree easier from Latvia than I can from Britain, which totally undermines all the work on biosecurity,” he added, referring to the risk of importing pests and diseases.”
  • The problem arises from three new rules applying to Northern Ireland, which is observing EU customs and regulatory rules on plants and animals as part of the Northern Ireland protocol.
  • A ban on British soil being moved into Northern Ireland emerged two weeks ago, with garden centres protesting about a block on supplies from British nurseries. Fulton said he had been told washing all the soil off roots could be the solution.
  • Mike Harvey, director at Maelor Forest Nurseries in Wales, which sells about 32m trees a year, said it too had had to stop selling to Northern Ireland, with a recent order for 1,000 oaks about to be cancelled.
  • What enrages Harvey is not so much the ban on movement of trees to Northern Ireland, but the continued importation of trees from Ireland for forestation projects. He said Brexit gave the UK an opportunity to close the border to EU trees and give the country a fighting chance of stopping the “drift of disease from south-east Europe to the north-west”.
  • A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had “intensified work with the EU … to address the outstanding issues raised about the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol, such as those concerning the movements of plants, trees, soil and growing media”.
  • It said the UK-EU joint committee to be held no later than 24 February would “provide the necessary political steer and approval to this work”.

‘Slash and burn’ of EU rules ruled out post-Brexit – FT

  • Boris Johnson’s adviser on regulatory reform, Iain Duncan Smith, has said he will not lead a “slash-and-burn exercise” when it comes to changing Britain’s post-Brexit rules.
  • Duncan Smith’s comments chime with warnings from business leaders that they do not want the UK prime minister to oversee a “bonfire” of EU red tape and instead want to see him focus on ensuring the government becomes “nimbler” at making new rules.
  • Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak are intensifying efforts to explain exactly how they will use their post-Brexit freedoms in future, urging business leaders to help fill in the blank canvas. Business groups report being “badgered” by Downing Street to come up with ideas for regulatory reform, while MPs led by Duncan Smith are seeking ideas to present to Johnson by May.
  • Duncan Smith, chair of Johnson’s innovation, growth and regulatory reform task force, said his group would be proposing “fast and sensible” regulatory reforms, drawing on English common law principles.
  • Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary, said: “Businesses are not crying out for worse workers’ rights, lowered environmental protections or the erosion of standards. The red tape they are most concerned about is the new bureaucracy at the border.” The Conservative manifesto rules out any lowering of standards in areas like workers’ rights, climate change, food safety or animal welfare. Any changes in these areas could also trigger trade retaliation by the EU.
  • The prime minister has previously identified areas such as driverless cars, artificial intelligence, fintech, and bioscience as those which could benefit from regulations set quickly at national level, bypassing EU bureaucracy.
  • Sunak has set up a number of regulatory reviews to shore up the City of London’s global appeal. The Kalifa and Hill reviews of fintech and listings are examining lower free float requirements and whether to allow dual-class share structures on the premium segment of the main exchange to attract entrepreneurs who want to keep control of their businesses. A review of the Solvency II insurance regime will ease capital requirements, with the aim of releasing more money for investment in expanding new sectors of the economy.

Jessica Mutton

Jessica's practice focuses on international trade and anti-bribery work, encompassing customs, export control and sanctions matters. Jessica's trade work includes advising international clients on fast-moving and evolving EU and UN sanctions, notably in respect of Iran and Russia, and on compliance with UK and EU export controls. Her trade experience also includes advising on tariff classification and customs valuations. Jessica's anti-bribery experience includes assisting with investigations, and advising clients on compliance with anti-bribery laws. Jessica has also taken a lead role in monitoring Brexit-related developments; analysing how they will affect the UK's trading position generally, and clients' businesses specifically. She has helped clients begin to conduct risk assessments of how Brexit will impact their businesses, and has assisted them in developing tailored Brexit strategies. Jessica also presents at various seminars, webinars, and conferences on the complexities of Brexit. Jessica advises global clients on complex issues arising from international transactions and works with clients across a number of sectors including pharmaceuticals, defence, finance, aviation, energy, and telecommunications. Jessica has also worked previously in Paris, and is fluent in French.