EU warns UK it must be ready to police the Irish Sea as Brexit extension ruled out
The bloc’s assertion will anger many in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK
The likelihood of a so-called “no deal” Brexit has grown significantly after Britain formally confirmed to the European Union that it will not seek an extension of the transition period.
The response from Brussels came in the form of a European Commission warning to Britain that it must be ready to police the border in the Irish Sea.
It is a contention that will anger many in Northern Ireland who consider such a move sets them apart from the rest of the UK.
The transition period for a deal to be struck with the EU is set to expire on December 31 but there were provisions for an option to extend for another two years if a no-deal result looked likely. Britain formally left the bloc on January 31 and is now negotiating a trade agreement.
The formal announcement that there would be no extension period was made by the British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who gave the news to the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, at the second meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee on implementing the Withdrawal Agreement.
The joint committee had to decide by the end of the month whether to extend the status quo transition. But with no meeting planned until September, the UK’s decision was “a definite conclusion of this discussion”, the European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic told journalists.
“I have taken note of the position of the UK on this issue and have stated, as President Ursula von der Leyen did earlier, that the EU remains open to such an extension,” Mr Sefcovic said.
“We take this decision as a definitive one,” he said. “In this context, we both agreed on accelerating the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and to accelerate our work.”
If an agreement is to be settled by December, an enormous amount of work remains to be done, especially with meetings difficult due to the coronavirus crisis.
In particular, Britain will have to provide more detail on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland to show how it will work in practice.
Mr Sefcovic said: “We need to move from aspiration to operation, and fast.”
Updated: July 6, 2020 09:51 PM