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Brexit Weekly Digest - 23 July

This week, the UK government publish a ‘command paper’ on the Northern Ireland protocol in an attempt to rewrite the Brexit deal, former Australian government trade negotiator discusses how the Australian trade deal will cause long term issues for Welsh farmers, and the cabinet office unveil their plans to “slash Brexit red tape”.

UK wants to rewrite Northern Ireland Protocol

The UK government has released a 28-page document titled ‘Northern Ireland Protocol: the way forward’, unveiling its suggested changes to the trading arrangements previously agreed with the EU for Northern Ireland. The proposal centres on four main adjustments (The Guardian):

  • Removing all custom checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, instead introducing a light-touch regime whereby businesses would register their trade and agree to inspections of their supply chains.
  • End the role of EU institutions in the enforcement of the protocol.
  • Introduce a dual regulatory system allowing sanitary or phytosanitary (SPS) goods to be sold in Northern Ireland as long as they meet “either UK or EU rules”.
  • Pass new legislation to introduce penalties for traders that do not comply.

The EU said it would not agree to renegotiate the terms of the Brexit deal, however, European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, said the EU was willing to "seek creative solutions within the framework of the protocol" to ease border issues (BBC News).

Brexit Minister Lord Frost announced that the government will not be triggering article 16 (which allows for parts for the Brexit deal to be suspended), saying, “We concluded that is it not the right moment to do so”. DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson supports the need for renegotiation, but has cautioned, “If the EU is unwilling to recognise the harm caused by the protocol, then the UK government must take appropriate unilateral action using Article 16”.


Welsh farmers are “right to be concerned” about Australian trade deal

Dmitry Grozoubinski, former Australian government trade negotiator, has warned Welsh farmers of Australian agriculture imports swamping the market in the long term. Furthermore, Nick Fenwick, head of policy at the Farmers’ Union of Wales, also expressed concern over the impact of the trade deal on Welsh agriculture, saying it could be “pretty devastating”.

This is because, under the deal, Australia will be able to send a certain amount of agricultural goods per year to the UK without any payment of tariffs (taxes on imports), meaning Welsh farmers would be at risk of being undercut by the imported Australian meats (BBC News).

UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said that British farmers will be protected, as the point at which tariffs kick in will be raised gradually raised over 10 years. When the agreement in principle was published on 17 June, it was expected that the Australian imports would simply replace the EU imports lost due to Brexit. A final signed agreement is still to be reached, however the Department for International Trade (DIT) is sure the deal will include protection for “sensitive UK agriculture”.


UK to seize Brexit opportunities and unleash innovation by overhauling approach to red tape

The cabinet office and Lord Frost have issued a press release of “bold proposals” to reform and modernise the way regulation and rules are set in the UK in order to “slash Brexit red tape”.

The Prime Minister commissioned an independent Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) to make recommendations on the UK’s regulatory framework. The group proposed a few changes, such as reintroducing a way to ‘offset’ new regulations, like the One-In-Two-Out method whereby to introduce a new regulation, unnecessary regulations would need to be removed. They also suggested lifting certain regulations to allow new products to be tested in a real-world setting, under the regulator’s supervision.

Lord Frost said, “For the first time in a generation, we are free to implement rules that put the UK first. This is the next step in driving forward ambitious reform, following the work of the TIGRR. Our job is to help people and businesses thrive across the UK. That was what taking back control was about. Reforming the way we regulate will be a big part of delivering that for people”.

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