Brexit: Lord Frost speaks of 'disappointment' with EU
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The European Commission is currently preparing a plan to ensure the continued long-term supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland from next year under the Northern Ireland Protocol. But despite the UK Government’s objections to the suggestion, Eurocrats are working on a legislative proposal for the European Council and the European Parliament to consider.
The plan would involve regulatory compliance functions, such as quality control tests for new medicines destined solely for the Northern Ireland market to be permanently conducted in the UK.
This would be instead of requiring companies to set up these procedures in Northern Ireland or the EU after existing grace periods expire in December 2021.
But Brussels says the UK Government would have to put specific safeguards in place to ensure those products did not go beyond Northern Ireland into the EU’s internal market.
UK ministers would also have to fully apply EU medicines legislation on quality, safety, and batch testing and release when approving goods for use in Northern Ireland.
The Commission said last night the proposed solution would be “on the basis of a clear commitment from the UK to put in place the safeguards.”
A Brussels source added the legislative proposal would be put to the Council and Parliament before the Autumn.
However, if no solution is reached soon, drug manufacturers could withdraw up to 90 percent of the drugs they supply to the region.
In response, a Whitehall source close to the ongoing negotiations surrounding the Protocol said the request to align to EU rules for medicines was “absurd”.
They added to Express.co.uk of the wider plans: “The EU’s system would be a bureaucratic nightmare to run.
“We have already made clear to them the proposal will not work, it seems they are just pressing ahead with their own agenda.”
The UK’s strict approach on medicines comes after ministers announced plans to delay checks on goods coming to the UK from Northern Ireland as crunch talks to renegotiate the Protocol are set to get underway.
The Protocol is part of the Brexit divorce deal aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
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Under the terms of the deal, Northern Ireland effectively remains in the EU single market following the end of the transition period.
EU and UK officials are currently having technical discussions which include medicines in a bid to resolve the deadlock, but the UK Government is keen to get a response to Lord Frost’s command paper on the post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Lord Frost has demanded significant changes be made to the Northern Ireland Protocol, an element of the deal he negotiated, as he said “we cannot go on as we are”.
A UK Government spokesperson claimed there would be a delay of checks until 2022.
They added: “While those discussions with the EU are ongoing the current arrangements for unfettered access – which ensure no processes for goods moving from Northern Ireland to GB – will be maintained and no changes will be introduced during 2021.
“We will keep this under review and give traders plenty of notice if anything changes.”
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Express.co.uk also understands the ongoing negotiations may also impact the expiration of grace periods next month for chilled meats.
UK ministers are mulling over another delay as the September 30 deadline to the current extension runs out, risking a potential “sausage war”.
After October 1, if the EU does not agree to extend the grace periods further, then shipments of chilled meats including sausages into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the United Kingdom may be restricted.
The UK initially asked for a 12-week extension to the grace period on animal products which includes chilled meats such as sausages, burgers and mince in June, which was granted by the European Commission.
A UK Government spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “There has been ongoing technical contact over the summer with the Commission regarding the proposals we set out in the Command Paper. We will approach discussions in a spirit of ambition, imagination, genuine flexibility, and compromise.
“We set out in July the importance of providing certainty for businesses and citizens through ‘standstill’ arrangements as those discussions proceed, and welcomed the EU’s decision at the end of July not to proceed to the next stage of its legal proceedings. We will update traders in due course as to any developments in this regard.”
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