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Sat, 30 May 2020

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By Andrew McQuillan
Brexit
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Press releases

Fresh Brexit row as Number 10 says EU demand for Northern Ireland customs checks not shared before publication

Fresh Brexit row as Number 10 says EU demand for Northern Ireland customs checks not shared before publication

Downing Street hit back at the move on Friday.

3 min read

A fresh row has broken out between the UK and EU after Number 10 accused Brussels of publishing demands for “detailed” plans on Northern Ireland customs checks before sharing them with London.

EU officials circulated the technical note after the first round of talks on the Northern Ireland protocol, urging the UK to set out its plans for handling customs and other checks at the border.

Negotiators said they had held constructive talks during the first joint UK-EU session on Northern Ireland which were held via video link on Thursday.

But shortly after the session, a text was shared amongst member states saying there was an "urgent need" for the UK to follow up with "tangible measures" to avoid disruption for businesses.

"As time is short, the commission underlines the importance of the UK setting out its plans with regard to all implementation measures prescribed by the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and providing a detailed timetable," they wrote.

"The commission expects the United Kingdom to provide the requested details, and detailed timelines, on the implementation measures it intends to take as a matter of urgency."

"The exchanges in the specialised committee now urgently need to be followed up by tangible measures."

The protocol aims to ensure there will not be a customs border on the island of Ireland at the end of the Brexit transition period.

But the EU is calling for key preparations to be agreed by 1 July to ensure there is enough time for the measures to be implemented by 1 January next year.

However, a Downing Street spokesperson hit back at the EU on Friday, saying Brussels officals had chosen to publish the note before sharing it with British negotiators.

"The EU Commission has chosen this technical note to set out its own views of the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol," they said.

"It was not shared at recent meetings with the UK nor has it been agreed by the UK government."

And in a sign of frustration over the move, the spokesperson accused the EU of failing to acknowledge the "fundamental objective" of the plans by failing to reference the Good Friday peace agreementn their text.

They added: "Most strikingly, the note appears to miss out the fundamental objective of the Northern Ireland protocol. There is no mention of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement or the Peace Process anywhere in this seven-page document.

"We are committed to complying with our legal obligations under the protocol, just as we expect the European Union to comply with theirs. We will continue to take forwards of the implementation of the protocol and specialised committee.

"It seems to be the Commission's decision to publish this note having not shared it at recent meetings with the UK or having agreed it with the UK Government."

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