Britain has delayed by around six months its plans to introduce a range of post-Brexit border checks on goods imported from the European Union, saying it had listened to businesses which needed more time to prepare.
The immediate introduction of checks and paperwork on goods exported from Britain into Europe has delayed the arrivals of some products, increased costs and prevented some small operators from being able to compete.
To soften the impact for businesses, also hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Britain had already delayed the start of import checks on food goods until 1 April.
Food producers had been expected to produce certain customs documents and certificates signed by vets to move 'products ofanimal origin' into Britain after that date.
Those checks will now start in October. Full processes for some other imports will not come into force until January 2022.
"We will now introduce border controls broadly six months later than planned to give traders time to focus on getting back on their feet as the economy opens up after a difficult year," Britain's Minister in charge of Britain's relationship with the EU David Frost said in a statement.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove also said: "Although we recognise that many in the border industry and many businesses have been investing time and energy to be ready on time, and indeed we in government were confident of being ready on time, we have listened to businesses who have made a strong case that they need more time to prepare".
US caucus told EU has no option but to take legal action over NI Protocol
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Northern Ireland protocol was the only topic for discussion during a virtual meeting with the US Congress Friends of Ireland caucus last night.
Mr Coveney said he discussed the situation with the caucus chairman Congressman Richie Neal and asked him if it would be useful for the group to get a brief from him and European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefcovic, to explain the situation and the tension around the protocol.
This, he said, took place last night.
Minister Coveney said Mr Šefcovic explained that the EU has no option but to take legal action.
Mr Coveney said politics is "'very strained right now" in Northern Ireland because of perceptions around the protocol and its implementation.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the EU would consider if further flexibilities are needed but this must be done collectively.
"We cannot move forward on the basis of one side deciding unilaterally 'Well this is what needs to be done and we can't wait for the other sides to agree with us', and that's essentially what the British Government has done."
Mr Coveney said Congressman Neal agrees that this is a matter of trust and if the protocol is to work in the future, it must be on the basis of partnership and collaboration.
Mr Coveney said there have been many breaches of trust during the Brexit journey and relationships were strained and a way was found "to put it back together again... and this is how we should be approaching this unfortunate turn of events".
He added that the view in Dublin, Washington, and Brussels is that the British government should reflect on its strategy and hopefully change it so all sides can talk again and implement what has been agreed.
Irish Exporters Association largely welcomes UK announcement
The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has said it largely welcomes the announcement today by the UK Government to delay the post-Brexit checks on EU goods coming into Great Britain by six months.
In a statement, IEA CEO Simon McKeever said while Irish exporters have more time to prepare, they have some concerns.
"We have been working with our members to prepare them for the phasing in of UK import controls on 1 April and 1 July, and whilst having more time to prepare will be a relief to many Irish businesses, we have concerns about the wider issue of postponing deadlines and the uncertainty that creates in the long-run.
"Nevertheless, the delay of imposing further controls on EU goods entering Britain is welcomed and should mean that further disruption to trade is minimised for the next six months," he said.
Mr McKeever said the decision highlights the "total lack of preparation for Brexit by the UK", and he said he would question whether they will be ready by the end of this year.
Continue with preparations
Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has encouraged Irish exporters to continue with their preparations for the introduction of import controls by the UK
"The announcement by the UK Government means that UK import requirements planned for 1 April and 1 July are merely postponed, and not cancelled.
Irish exporters should maximise their use of the additional time to prepare in a comprehensive manner for the next phase of Brexit changes that will now come into force on 1 October this year," he said in a statement.