EU tears up own Brexit agreement with offer of fewer checks on UK goods in Northern Ireland

By Lizzy Buchan

The EU will put forward plans today to resolve a Brexit trade stand-off as Boris Johnson seeks to tear apart his own EU exit deal.

The UK has been demanding changes to a key plank of the Brexit agreement governing trade in Northern Ireland - which was only signed 10 months ago.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic is expected to offer new measures to address issues to trade across the Irish Sea, which has caused delays to goods arriving in Northern Ireland.

But tensions are mounting over British demands to remove oversight of the Northern Ireland Protocol from the European Court of Justice.

It comes as Brexit Minister Lord Frost admitted Boris Johnson only signed the protocol - which has effectively created a border in the Irish Sea - to get Brexit done.

Lord Frost admitted the PM only signed up to the Northern Ireland protocol to get Brexit over the line (PA)

The EU will reportedly offer to scrap up to 50% of customs checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland and to ditch more than half the checks on meat and plants.

An official told the Telegraph: "Brussels is going to allow more goods to pass into Northern Ireland without checks in return for having more data to do proper market surveillance.

"The number of checks will go down massively. This is the best way to cut checks, short of a Swiss-style alignment agreement."

But Mr Sefcovic has made it clear that the EU is unlikely to cave over the UK's demand over the ECJ oversight.

European judges act as the final arbitrator in trade disputes under the terms of the PM's Brexit deal - but the UK now wants to replace this with an independent process.

Brussels says Northern Ireland would be unable to retain access to the EU single market access - a key part of the protocol - unless it is monitored by the ECJ.

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said the suggestions were welcome on Wednesday morning.

"Well clearly we'll wait to receive the full announcement from the EU and I know that Lord Frost, as he said yesterday, and the Government as a whole will engage fully, constructively with these proposals," he told Sky News.

"It is though important that there is fundamental change to the Northern Ireland Protocol so we'll be looking to see that, but let's see exactly what the EU comes up with."

But Tory peer Lord Frost has been ramping up threats in recent weeks that UK is prepared to use an emergency clause to suspend the protocol to safeguard the peace process.

He admitted to diplomats on Tuesday that the PM only signed the deal so he could get Brexit done.

The Tory peer said: “We knew that some aspects of the protocol as it stood when they were agreed in October 2019 - we knew that these were problematic.

“We didn’t particularly support them ourselves, we agreed with them because it was the right thing to do for the country overall, looking at the wider political debate and the need to deliver on Brexit.

The PM's former top aide Dominic Cummings claimed Mr Johnson "never had a scoobydoo what the deal he signed meant".

He tweeted: "He never understood what leaving Customs Union meant until 11/20.

"In 1/20 he was babbling 'Id never have signed it if Id understood it' (but that WAS a lie)."

Labour's Ed Miliband said it was clear that the deal was "half-baked" rather than "over ready" as the PM originally promised.

The Shadow Business Secretary told Sky News: "I hope there's compromise on both sides. I think people will be scratching their heads because this was an agreement signed by Boris Johnson, he said it was a fantastic triumph, it was all going to be fine - and now they want to rip up their own protocol.

"I actually think there's a case for a wider EU-UK veterinary agreement because that would then make the goods situation in Northern Ireland much easier, it would agree common standards."

It is anticipated that the EU proposals, along with a wish list of reforms outlined by the Government in July, will form the basis of a new round of negotiations between Brussels and London.

The protocol aimed to protect the peace process by avoiding a border on the island of Ireland - shifting regulatory and customs checks and processes to the Irish Sea.

But it has caused disruption to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Some businesses have benefited from the terms of the protocol, which provides Northern Ireland traders unique unfettered access to sell within the UK internal market and EU single market.

What is inkl?

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