EU suggests Northern Ireland checks could be cut to ‘a couple of lorries a day’
The EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit has suggested that physical checks on goods travelling across the Irish Sea could be cut to a “couple of lorries a day”.
Maroš Šefčovič said the union stands ready to work in an “open and constructive way” with Britain following a statement from the new UK Prime Minister on the prospect of a negotiated settlement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It comes as the UK and EU have been embroiled in a row over Britain’s proposals to override parts of the controversial post-Brexit treaty, as it seeks to reduce trade barriers with the region.
On Wednesday, Liz Truss said her preference is for a negotiated solution to the dispute.
But she said such a resolution would have to deliver “all of the things we set out” in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is currently making its way through the UK’s Parliament.
The legislation would allow ministers to unilaterally scrap the arrangements the UK signed up to as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Šefčovič said he was “encouraged” by Ms Truss’s recent remarks.
“We stand ready to work in an open and constructive and intensive way,” he said.
He argued that the trade border would be “invisible” under the EU’s plans, with goods processed “remotely” while making their way to Northern Ireland, as long as the UK provides real-time data on their movements.
Mr Šefčovič suggested physical checks would typically only be made for a “couple of lorries a day”, when “there is reasonable suspicion of … illegal trade smuggling, illegal drugs or dangerous toys or poisoned food”.