EU set to reject British proposal of two-year extension to NI grace period

The European Union is set to reject Britain’s proposal of a two-year extension to the grace period on trade rules relating to Northern Ireland, it has emerged.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove had requested an extension to what he described as “teething problems” over the implementation of new trade rules between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, however reports suggest the Commission will turn down the request.

Sources for the Telegraph have reported the Commission may agree to a maximum of six months however diplomats have told Irish broadcaster RTE that there is “no guarantee the EU will agree to any further grace periods.”

Mr Gove is expected to meet European Commission Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations, Maroš Šefčovič for showdown talks in London on Thursday.

The Democratic Unionist Party is calling for the Northern Ireland Protocol, the rules now governing the province, to be scrapped and have called on prime minister Boris Johnson to unilaterally override the damaging rules on trade by invoking Article 16 which would provide some respite.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the Unionist party’s Westminster leader, told The Telegraph: “I am disappointed but not surprised by this meagre response from the European Union. I really don’t think the Irish government understands the extent of the difficulty consumers and businesses are experiencing in Northern Ireland. 

“Simply extending the grace period doesn’t resolve any of the difficulties and doesn’t fix the underlying problem, which is that people in Northern Ireland are facing barriers to trade with the United Kingdom. 

“If this is the best the EU can do, by kicking the can down the road a little further and offering no substantive change… then the Prime Minister has a duty to act, and he has the power to act.”

Writing in Conservative Home on Monday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson insisted “the solution is not to tinker with this flawed and ruinous agreement” but to replace it with a “workable alternative.”

Giving evidence to the Commons’ EU Scrutiny Committee on Monday afternoon, Michael Gove reiterated his willingness for the Protocol to work but warned the Commission that should progress not be made on resolving the issues arising from current trade barriers within the UK internal market, the government could be prepared to take action in the future.

“As the prime minister has spelt out, if we can’t make progress in resolving those issues, then the UK Government has to reserve its rights.”