The UK must “immediately” start building customs posts for checks on goods to Northern Ireland the EU has said, amid warnings that fishing rights could scupper Brexit talks and lead to their collapse.
The European Commission said the “urgent” construction of the facilities must begin now in order to be ready for use on January 1, 2021, when new controls on goods begin as the UK’s Brexit transition period ends.
Meanwhile, a “UK source close to the [Brexit trade] negotiations” warned the talks could collapse by June unless the EU gives up its demand for continued access to UK fishing waters.
‘We are not going to subordinate our laws to them in any areas’
“There are some fundamentals that we’re not going to change, nor going to move on. Because they are not so much negotiating positions as they’re sort of what an independent state does” said the source, quoted in the Telegraph.
“An independent state has independent control over coastal waters,” added the source, continuing: “What we are wanting now is an EU understanding that we are not going to subordinate our laws to them in any areas”.
The source said the government will consider walking away from talks in June and begin preparing for a no-deal Brexit, and added, “if we don’t look like we are going to get a deal” the end of the transition period “will become the primary focus of effort.”
Johnson’s agreement requires NI-GB trade checks
Michel Barnier accused the UK of wasting time after talks already affected by the coronavirus resumed last week and criticised British negotiators for not having a fisheries text to present.
UK sources responded by saying there was no point producing a text when both sides were “talking across each other.”
The deadline to ask for an extension to the transition period is July 1 and Boris Johnson has consistently ruled out doing so. His withdrawal agreement includes new checks and bureaucracy on trade within the UK, specifically on goods travelling between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Border posts at British ports
Barnier retweeted an EU Commission readout with a communiqué to member states informing: “All implementation measures that may require the creation of new facilities (such as new posts for the performance of official controls, or new customs offices) need to commence immediately to ensure that relevant facilities are operational on 1 January.”
The message to member states says implementation of all parts of the agreement “must be well under way by 1 July 2020” but building border posts at British ports for trade to NI is “among measures” which “have to be taken even earlier” so that they are ready on time.
The Independent reports that “the coronavirus pandemic means there is uncertainty in the UK about which construction projects can proceed with social distancing measures in place.”
The article reminds that Johnson “falsely claimed during last year’s election” that his deal meant there would be no additional checks on trade within the UK, between Britain and NI, “despite it being written in black and white in the agreement he signed.”