EU calls for UK government to outline plans for Northern Irish border

Michel Barnier, EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary Steve Barclay. Photograph: PA.

Michel Barnier, EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary Steve Barclay. Photograph: PA.

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The UK government has been left angered after the EU published a technical note calling for more post-Brexit detail on the Northern Irish border without discussing with London first.

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The note from the European Commission warns that key preparations for the Northern Ireland Protocol must be under way by July 1 if it is to come into effect at the end of the Brexit transition period.

The protocol argues that there will not be a border on the island of Ireland, but preparations must be in place to allow for customs checks and regulatory checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.

In the note circulated to member states the EU says it is the biggest challenge facing the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

It warns that there is a whole host of requirements that need to be satisfied in the coming weeks, and IT systems and customs databases need to be started in the next four weeks.


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Downing Street said the European Commission had circulated the note without prior notice.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The European Commission has chosen to publish this technical note to set out its own views on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

“It was not shared at recent meetings with the UK, nor has it been agreed by the UK Government.

“Most strikingly, the note appeared to miss out the fundamental objective of the Northern Ireland protocol.

“There is no mention of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, or the peace process anywhere in this seven-page document.

“We are committed to compiling with our legal obligations under the protocol, just as we expect the European Union to comply with theirs.

“We will continue to take forward discussions on implementation of the protocol.”

The PM’s spokesman added: “It seems to be the Commission’s decision to publish this note, having not shared it at recent the meetings with the UK, or having agreed it with the UK government.”

There has been a souring of relations between the UK and EU after the government rejected for the second time a customs office in Belfast.

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