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HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 9 June 2021

Media Summary

Brexit news – live: Threat of ‘sausage war’ draws closer, as PM accused of deliberately ignoring NI protocol
The Independent, 9 June 2021, Rory Sullivan

The Independent reports that a former Government Adviser, Gavin Barwell has said it is “inconceivable” that Boris Johnson did not understand the consequences of the Northern Ireland protocol. Gavin Barwell suggested that the Prime Minister signed up to the deal knowing that he would ignore parts of it later.

The latest post-Brexit trade dispute specifically concerns chilled meats transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Reports suggest London intends to extend the “grace period” for such products beyond June, meaning the imposition of checks will be delayed.

However, the EU has warned the UK that it will respond “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” to any unilateral action which breaches the protocol, with the European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič raising the prospect of a trade war.

The UK and EU must sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to Northern Ireland
The Telegraph, 8 June 2021, Maroš Šefčovič  

The Telegraph reports that Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations, is travelling to London to resolve EU-UK tensions regarding Northern Ireland.

This week, together with Lord Frost, the European Commission will launch the work of the Joint Partnership Council on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, to benefit all citizens and businesses.

The EU will also chair the Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement, which will address current issues linked to the implementation of the Protocol.

Šefčovič highlighted his dedication to the people of Northern Ireland and his commitment to providing them peace and stability.

He said: ‘The Protocol is the best solution to the unique situation of the island of Ireland following Brexit – and specifically, to the challenges created by the type of Brexit that the current UK government chose.’

Šefčovič suggested that the EU is willing to find innovative solutions and that the continued availability of medicines to Northern Ireland is among those solutions.

Brexit: Can the sticking points on Northern Ireland be resolved?
The Financial Times, 7 June 2021, Jim Brunsden and Peter Foster

The Financial Times reports that growing tensions between Britain and the EU regarding trade laws for Northern Ireland will be confronted with Brexit talks this week and President Joe Biden’s arrival in the UK for the G7 summit.

The UK argues that the EU should show more flexibility over the protocol, however, Brussels claims that it is doing everything it can to find creative solutions and Britain is not cooperating.

Selling medicines in Northern Ireland that are made in Great Britain require necessary EU regulatory approvals and licensing arrangements as Northern Ireland is within the EU’s single market for goods. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies in Northern Ireland are obligated to receive authorisation from the European Commission, following an assessment by the European Medicines Agency.

The EU has demanded more UK action to resolve tensions and an EU official said, “if there’s to be a discussion on new, extended or expanded flexibilities, then we believe the UK first needs to implement the protocol effectively.”

This was also reported by The Times.

 Parliamentary Coverage

UK’s future exhaustion of intellectual property rights regime
Intellectual Property Office, 7 June 2021

Since the UK departed from the EU, the UK can decide the future regulations on intellectual property rights. This decision is important for the UK as it will govern future rules on parallel imports into the UK.

Intellectual property (IP) includes inventions, creative works or symbols used in commerce. IP is protected by rights such as patents, trademarks, designs or copyright which are protected by law so that the creators can control use of their works in order to earn financial benefit or recognition.

One mechanism to provide this balance is the principle of ‘exhaustion of IP rights’. Exhaustion of IP rights underpins parallel trade. Parallel trade is the cross-border movement of genuine physical goods that have already been put on the market. This is the import and export of IP-protected goods that have already been first sold in a specific market, for example moving a good that has been sold in another country and importing that good into the UK.

The question of what our future exhaustion regime is an important one as it underpins the rules on parallel trade of goods into the UK. While parallel importation of goods that have been first sold in other EEA countries is currently permitted, it is right to examine whether these current arrangements best serve the UK’s interests.

Full Coverage

Brexit news – live: Threat of ‘sausage war’ draws closer, as PM accused of deliberately ignoring NI protocol
The Independent, 9 June 2021, Rory Sullivan

It is “inconceivable” that Boris Johnson did not understand the consequences of the Northern Ireland protocol, a former government adviser has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gavin Barwell, who served as Theresa May’s chief of staff, accused the prime minister of signing up to the deal in the knowledge that he would ignore parts of it later.

“I think the calculation was sign up to whatever was on offer and see if we can deal with anything we don’t like down the line,” Mr Barwell said.

His comments come amid the latest post-Brexit trade dispute, which concerns chilled meats transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Reports suggest London intends to extend the “grace period” for such products beyond June, meaning the imposition of checks will be delayed.

However, the EU has warned the UK that it will respond “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” to any unilateral action which breaches the protocol, with the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic raising the prospect of a trade war.

The UK and EU must sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to Northern Ireland
The Telegraph, 8 June 2021, Maros Sefcovic

The prolific English hymn composer Isaac Watts once said: “Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.”

And yet it is also one of the most important tasks when it comes to building a productive, enduring and mutually beneficial partnership.

As I travel to London today, it is clear that this week will be a defining one for consolidating trust between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Together with Lord Frost, we will launch the work of the Joint Partnership Council on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – beneficial for all our citizens and businesses, while establishing a level playing field and effective governance to enforce it.

We will also chair the Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement, which will see us address outstanding issues linked to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Here, I arrive with three clear messages. My colleagues and I in the EU have a strong commitment to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that the peace, stability and prosperity that they have enjoyed over the last 20 years are maintained. This commitment is longstanding and runs deep in the European Union, which is at heart a peace project itself.

The Protocol is the best solution to the unique situation of the island of Ireland following Brexit – and specifically, to the challenges created by the type of Brexit that the current UK government chose.

The Protocol is the only solution we found to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its parts. Through countless hours of intense, line-by-line negotiation, we managed to do what at times seemed impossible – to protect the hard-earned gains of the peace process and maintain an invisible border on the island of Ireland. No one knows it better than Lord Frost himself, then the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator.

The agreement on the Protocol also marks the first time that the EU has entrusted the control of its economic border to an outside partner, a risk that we and our EU member states were willing to take in the interests of protecting stability in Northern Ireland.

However, to realise the benefits of the Protocol, we must make tangible progress on its implementation – and that is my second message. The entire EU team and I have been working hard to find ways to ensure that the Protocol is implemented in a way that both facilitates the everyday life of Northern Ireland’s communities and preserves the integrity of the EU’s single market. But we cannot do this alone. It has to be a joint endeavour between the EU and the UK.

Far from being inflexible, the EU has shown from the very beginning that we are willing to find creative solutions when required. The continued availability of medicines to Northern Ireland is among those tailor-made flexible solutions – something I personally take very seriously in this time of pandemic.

I hope to see that same commitment to the Protocol and perseverance with its implementation from the UK government when we meet in London.

Unfortunately, we see numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation – even though the Protocol entered into force over 17 months ago. Mutually agreed compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations, would therefore be an important stepping stone – and, I believe, a credible outcome of this Joint Committee.

If this does not happen, and if the UK takes further unilateral action over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations.

I also believe – and this is my third message – that at its heart, the Protocol represents an opportunity for Northern Ireland. It offers unparalleled access to two markets, representing more than 500 million consumers with strong purchasing power. This can provide a powerful incentive to attract investment from overseas. It is no wonder that INVEST NI has already identified over 30 potential inward investment opportunities since the beginning of this year.

To succeed, however, and to ensure stability and predictability, we need to see politics that unites rather than divides – and the EU stands firmly by this approach. I really appreciated speaking to businesses and civil society in Northern Ireland in February and earlier this week. To listen to their experience of the Protocol is invaluable. And it was this outreach that prompted me to propose to the United Kingdom an SPS agreement, aligning with the EU’s food safety and animal health rules, even temporarily, in order to do away with the vast majority of the checks on the Irish Sea.

The EU has been – and remains – a devoted friend of Northern Ireland. We will continue to offer our help and support, including through the PEACE programme, in which over a billion euros have been invested into excellent initiatives right across Northern Ireland.

This support will not end because of Brexit. The EU has already committed to continuing this programme, together with the UK. I remain convinced that for the EU and the UK, there is far more that unites us than divides us. With so much in common, we should not waste time turning the tables and washing our hands of an agreement that we shaped, agreed and signed jointly.

To further grow our relationship, we should seek to strengthen our win-win cooperation. We should work hand-in-hand – singing from the same hymn sheet, if you will – with great resolve to write a new chapter in EU-UK relations based on trust. In a world where democracy increasingly finds itself under pressure from many sides, I believe it is our obligation, as partners sharing the same values, to do precisely that.

Brexit: Can the sticking points on Northern Ireland be resolved?
The Financial Times, 7 June 2021, Jim Brunsden and Peter Foster

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HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 9 June 2021

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