Is this what we voted for? Devastating Brexit poll sheds light on splintering UK trade
EU 'unwilling' to resolve Northern Ireland issue says MP
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The poll of 1,000 British retailers, conducted by e-commerce marketing firm iakoe, found the majority plan to halt sales to Northern Ireland by April. This is due to problems with the Northern Ireland protocol, which has caused fury and backlash in Westminster and Belfast.
Possible extensions to the Irish Sea border “grace periods” will be discussed today by the EU-UK body overseeing the Northern Ireland Brexit deal. This grace period means checks and controls on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland are not yet fully implemented.
The company behind the research said many firms had “reached the precipice and are now having to make a final decision as to whether trading into Northern Ireland is feasible since the creation of the Irish Sea border post-Brexit”.
They added: “The results follow widespread anecdotal evidence of GB companies which previously traded with Northern Ireland now refusing to sell across the Irish Sea.”
The survey also found 42 percent of firms had seen orders cancelled after being forced to increase their prices to Northern Ireland customers to cover new administration and custom charges.
Helen White, co-founder of lighting brand houseof, told Northern Ireland’s News Letter newspaper: “Dealing with additional red tape for us is a real challenge at the moment as we’re already experiencing a sixfold increase in the cost of shipping containers from China.
“To begin adding further complexities to the situation by burdening increased shipping and administrative costs to Northern Ireland may simply not be viable until the Irish Sea border situation is resolved.”
Kirsty McManus, of the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland, added: “It is clear that Northern Ireland could have a competitive advantage via our dual access to Great Britain and the EU Single Market but this is being overshadowed by elements of the protocol between GB and NI which is causing friction.”
The grace periods – which cover food and parcels – are set to end in April and the UK Government has asked the EU for an extension until 2023.
According to the BBC, the issue will be discussed at the joint committee, which is jointly chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.
Under the Brexit agreement, signed by Boris Johnson in December, Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU’s single market for goods and will enforce EU customs rules at its ports.
This means EU import rules have applied to goods entering the country from the UK since January 1.
On Monday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the EU was prepared to be “flexible” and “generous” in easing the effect on Northern Ireland businesses.
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However, the UK had to follow through on its commitments to the EU last December.
These commitments included a promise to give EU observers real-time access to UK customs data.
Last month, Mr Gove urged the EU to extend the grace periods after the bloc imposed Article 16, which they made a swift U-turn.
The EU did not rule out longer grace periods but it is believed the bloc will be unlikely to agree to a longer extension.
The row erupted over coronavirus vaccine supplies which prompted the EU to use the “nuclear” option of invoking Article 16.
This is part of the Northern Ireland Protocol which governs the island’s trading arrangements with the EU and Great Britain.
The protocol was one of biggest issues during negotiations between the EU and UK last year.
It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.
Article 16 is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
After it was triggered, Boris Johnson told European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen he had “grave concerns” and spoke to Irish counterpart Micheal Martin.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster described the move as an “incredible act of hostility”.
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