The EU has recently requested more time to ratify the Brexit deal that was signed on Christmas Eve last year, just days before the end of the transition period. The initial deadline for this ratification process to complete was the end of February. With that date fast approaching, the Commission applied to have their deadline extended until the end of April. This gives the European Parliament more time to scrutinise the deal and veto the entire accord, should they find something that doesn’t satisfy them.
More time to ratify the Brexit deal means more uncertainty
The request, and subsequently the approval, of the extension of this ratification process, inject more uncertainty into the already fragile new relationship between the two parties. The long Brexit negotiations process that we all witnessed in the last four years raised concerns over the UK’s trajectory when it comes to dealing with problems surrounding trade with Northern Ireland. This made the EU lawmakers more cautious to sign and approve the Brexit deal without having the chance to properly read through every clause.
From 1st of January 2021 the Brexit deal regulations that all businesses have been subject to have only been implemented provisionally. Businesses affected by the changes have already incurred losses and extra costs and not knowing whether the new rules are to stay, or if there are further changes coming, puts them in a very unstable position.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said, “Provisionally applying the agreement was not the United Kingdom’s preferred outcome given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses and indeed the parties […] Extending the period of provisional application prolongs that uncertainty.”
Northern Ireland “teething problems”
In the last 10 weeks, the initial stages of the new relationship, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has acknowledged “teething problems” with trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The new Brexit deal resulted in empty shelves in some of the supermarkets in Northern Ireland as many lorries were being delayed and even refused entry at ports due to mistakes in the customs clearance documents.
Mr Johnson has promised to “do everything we need to do” – including potentially triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol – in order to “ensure there is no barrier down the Irish Sea”.
The NI protocol is the part of the withdrawal agreement that governs the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. To ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland, the protocol grants Northern Ireland the right to remain under some EU rules.
This, however, means that there have to be customs declarations on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, including checks on some specific products, which in the last few weeks has proven to cause long delays.
Another option that the government in London has suggested would be to postpone the implementation of full customs checks on medicines, parcels and food supplies to supermarkets until 2023. The EU has already signalled it will refuse this request.
During the Brexit deal negotiations process, the EU has accused the UK government of “shortcomings” over implementing the Northern Ireland protocol.
What will come at the end of the ratification process is yet to be known. As a business, it should be your responsibility to be prepared for any scenario. But do not worry, our friendly UK Customs Solutions team is here to help you with any requests pertaining to customs clearance after Brexit. Get in touch with us today!