The European Union and the United Kingdom today held their fourth meeting of the Specialised Committee on the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland (the Protocol).
The EU and the UK took stock of the implementation work on both sides. The EU welcomed the intensified efforts by the UK to progress on the implementation of the Protocol, in particular on issues related to Value Added Tax (VAT), customs, the Single Electricity Market and the preparatory work on Border Control Posts for checks of animals, plants and derived products.
- On VAT, the EU sought reassurances from the UK that it will be ready to distinguish traders from Northern Ireland from other taxable persons in the rest of the UK from 1 January 2021.
- On customs, the UK confirmed that work on testing its IT systems was underway.
- The parties took stock of the work carried out on the Single Electricity Market, noting an agreed approach to the scope of the application of the Electricity Directive in respect of Northern Ireland.
In the above three issues, the EU welcomes the constructive exchanges and the progress made in finding mutually acceptable solutions.
In the area of sanitary and phytosanitary issues, the EU made it clear that Border Control Posts will need to be fully operational on 1 January 2021 and that the full array of checks and controls under the Protocol will need to be carried out. Further clarifications are expected from the UK in the coming days.
The EU and the UK also discussed the application of EU legislation on medicines, as set out in the Protocol. The undisrupted supply of medicines is essential. At the same time, a high-level of protection for public health and the functioning of the internal market for medicines has to be maintained. This is all the more important, given the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. Positive steps forward are being made in this area.
The parties also stressed the importance to swiftly reach agreement on the draft decisions the Joint Committee must take before 1 January 2021, in particular on ensuring that the rights of EU representatives to be present when UK authorities implement checks and controls under the Protocol are operational and effective, on determining ‘goods not at risk’, on agricultural subsidies and a technical update to Annex 2 of the Protocol.
In the run-up to the next Joint Committee meeting, which is due to take place in the second half of November, the EU underlined its continued availability to work with the UK at all levels in order to resolve all remaining issues without any further delay.
Given the urgency, the EU confirmed its willingness to organise further Specialised Committee meetings in order to work on all outstanding matters, including allowing for the swift adoption of all remaining Joint Committee Decisions.
The Specialised Committee on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the six Specialised Committees established under Article 165 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Its role is to facilitate the implementation and application of this Protocol and make recommendations to the Joint Committee as regards the functioning of the Protocol.
The Specialised Committee already met on 30 April, 16 July, 9 October and 6 November 2020.
On 1 October 2020, the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the UK for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK had until the end of the month to submit its observations to that letter. To date, the EU has received no reply from the UK. The Commission is therefore considering next steps, including issuing a Reasoned Opinion.