LONDON – Britain has delayed the introduction of post-Brexit trade checks on goods moving from the island of Ireland to Britain beyond Jan. 1, to allow leeway for further negotiations with the European Union.
Britain left the EU’s single market at the beginning of 2021 but has twice delayed implementation of some post-Brexit import controls. Full customs declarations and controls are due to come into force from Jan. 1.
But Britain and the EU are still locked in talks to resolve difficulties with trading arrangements, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, for the British province that shares a land border with EU member Ireland.
Britain’s Brexit minister, David Frost, said those talks were unlikely to be “definitively concluded” by Jan. 1.
“The government has decided …to extend, on a temporary basis, the current arrangements for moving goods from the island of Ireland to Great Britain for as long as discussions on the protocol are ongoing,” Frost said in a written statement to parliament.
London has for months threatened to invoke Article 16, an emergency brake in the Northern Ireland chapter of the Brexit deal that can be used if the rules turn out to be unexpectedly harmful, a move that could turn into a full trade war.
But the two sides have recently agreed to focus on finding solutions to more specific issues such as medicines.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, welcomed the delay as good news for Irish exporters and farmers. But Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party, said the situation was unfair.
He said some checks were being imposed on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland, harming British businesses, but the door had been left open for companies in the Republic of Ireland.
“Time to sort the Irish Sea Border between GB & NI,” he said on Twitter.