Michel Barnier is refusing to back down on establishing a border in the Irish Sea to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and has publicly asked the British government for data to prove that the checks on goods flowing within the territory of the UK would be few in number.
The Guardian reports that the EU’s chief negotiator, who has been strident on the issue during the behind-the-scenes negotiations, made public his request for the information as he warned he needed an agreement on Northern Ireland and other outstanding withdrawal issues “by November at the latest”.
Brussels wants to show that the flow of goods from the rest of the UK into Northern Ireland is minimal, and that most of it comes via the Republic of Ireland.
UK negotiators have insisted it is not the number of checks that matters, but the principle of not having border checks within the sovereign territory of the UK.
The UK’s Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, told a joint press conference in Brussels that the wishes of all communities in Northern Ireland needed to be respected, in an indication that the British government will not allow checks unacceptable to the Democratic Unionist party.
In a week of Brexit talks in which progress was made on issues such as future security co-operation, Britain’s unwillingness to make a commitment to protect many of the EU’s most famous foods from imitators has emerged as an irritant. EU officials said they had been told by Britain that GIs would need to be reviewed and re-approved again by the UK government after Brexit.
The Financial Times reports “Britain must do more to protect EU food products such as champagne and Parma ham, Brussels has warned, highlighting a sensitive area of the bloc’s trade policy as a vital sticking point along with the Irish border in final Brexit negotiations. In talks in Brussels on Friday Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said it remained a core demand that the UK respect thousands of “geographical indications”, that guarantee the origins of more than 3,000 products from Tuscan olives to cognac.
By committing to enforce GIs, EU members including Britain pledge to keep foreign imitations of the products off their markets. Getting other countries to enforce the GIs has been a core EU goal in international trade talks and Brussels is adamant that such protection remain in Britain after Brexit. Brexit “cannot lead to a loss of existing protection for intellectual property”, Mr Barnier said. “It must be clarified in the withdrawal agreement . . . We must protect the entire stock of geographical indications.”