UK says post-Brexit relationship with EU rocky amid border issues

LONDON (AP) – Britain’s chief Brexit minister said on Tuesday relations between the UK and the European Union had suffered turbulence since their economic divorce six weeks ago, but expressed confidence that the bloc and his former member would soon enter milder waters.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove likened the relationship to a bumpy plane takeoff followed by passengers settling in to enjoy their flight.

“We’re not at the gin and tonic and peanut stage yet,” Gove told a House of Lords committee. “But I’m sure we will be.”

David Frost, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, told the European Commission of Lords that relations had been “more than bumpy”.

“I think this has been problematic,” he said. “I hope we get over this.”

Britain politically left the EU just over a year ago and left the bloc’s economic structures on December 31.

Since then, customs and veterinary checks have been imposed on goods moving between Britain and EU member countries – and some UK goods destined for Northern Ireland, as it shares a border with Ireland. , an EU country.

The controls upset the fragile political balance in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and where some people identify as British and others as Irish. The new measures are opposed by pro-British unionists, who say they are driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Authorities in Northern Ireland halted veterinary checks and pulled border staff out of ports for several days this month after threatening graffiti appeared to refer to port workers as targets.

The sensitivity of Northern Ireland’s status was underlined earlier this month when the EU briefly threatened to ban shipments of coronavirus vaccines to Northern Ireland as part of measures to consolidate the offer of the block. This would have drawn a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a destabilizing scenario that the Brexit trade deal was designed to avoid.

Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who heads a joint UK-EU committee on Northern Ireland, are due to meet in London on Thursday to try to resolve the issues.

The UK government is urging the EU to take a lighter approach to border controls, which have already led to shortages and delays in getting some goods to Northern Ireland. Britain wants to see the short-term grace periods that have delayed the imposition of full paperwork on supermarket supplies, packages and drugs extended until at least 2023.

The EU claims that certain economic frictions are the inevitable result of Britain’s decision to leave the single market and the Union’s customs union.

Trade relations between the UK and the EU are governed by an agreement reached between the two parties on December 24, just a week before the end of the Brexit transition period. The British Parliament approved it at the end of December and the EU planned to ratify it by the end of the month, with an extraordinary session of the European Parliament scheduled for February 23.

Frost said the block would likely take longer.

“We have heard informally from the European Commission today that we will probably receive a formal request for an extension of the two-month period provided for in the treaty for ratification on the EU side,” he said. -he declares.


Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story.


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