Behind-the-scenes assurances from US President Joe Biden to Britain should spur a UK-EU food standards pact that simplifies Northern Ireland’s controversial trade protocol, the Prime Minister said on Friday. Irish Minister Micheál Martin.

Martin spoke after Irish officials were told by their US counterparts that Biden told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 summit that a temporary UK-EU food standards deal would not present any obstacles to a separate trade agreement between the UK and the US.

Britain has previously rejected such a deal with the EU precisely because it could make it more difficult to reach a trade deal with America, where food production standards deviate sharply from EU rules. , including the use of hormones in the production of beef and chlorine in chicken.

“This is an important intervention,” Martin told reporters during a British Irish Council meeting Friday in Northern Ireland involving talks with UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

A temporary sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, long cited by the EU as an ideal way to minimize post-Brexit trade disruption with Britain, would keep the British bound to all of the bloc’s security regulations food – and apparently exclude the importation of US goods that flout those standards. But Martin says the United States doesn’t think this has to be a problem.

“President Biden doesn’t really want to see the UK and the European Union struggling on issues. He wants them to be resolved. I thought his suggestion was helpful, ”said Martin.

“His administration’s point of view is that reaching an SPS deal does not in itself have a negative impact on a trade deal between the UK and the US,” he said.

Agreement on common SPS standards on a temporary basis would eliminate the need for sanitary control of UK food entering the EU, including the Republic of Ireland. Such control has been taking place in the ports of Northern Ireland since January. Importantly, it would also eliminate the need to start enforcing the same veterinary control on tens of thousands of food products shipped from Britain to supermarkets in Northern Ireland every week.

EU officials say such a deal would remove controls on four-fifths of trade going from Britain to Northern Ireland, where port officials say they do not have sufficient resources to completely control the goods remaining in the local market.

In March, Britain unilaterally postponed the application of EU single market rules on food and plants shipped from Britain that remain in Northern Ireland, arguing that they pose no significant risk to spread to the Republic of Ireland. The European Commission has responded with legal action and is considering the potential for retaliatory tariffs and quotas on UK exports to the entire EU.

Their dispute could escalate if Britain ignores the next key deadline in the June 30 protocol for Britain to stop shipping most chilled meat products – including sausages, meat pies and ready meals like lasagna – from English distribution centers to supermarkets to their outlets in Northern Ireland.

Biden’s commercial reinsurance to Johnson “Certainly offers a potential for progress”, Martin said, and should allow ongoing UK-EU talks on resolving dozens of protocol-related trade disputes to “regain momentum.”

“Pragmatic and constructive”

Martin spoke alongside Gove, who did not explicitly comment on any diplomatic moves at the G7 summit in Cornwall. But Britain’s Cabinet Office minister said he fully agreed with Martin’s point of view.

“Micheál’s characterization of the spectrum of relations is quite correct,” said Gove, who praised the Irish government for “doing its best to proceed in a pragmatic and constructive manner”.

Gove – who in February was supplanted by David Frost as the UK’s main negotiator in protocol talks with the EU – said the Withdrawal Agreement and its associated protocol ratified by the UK parliament in 2019 must continue to be developed and refined as part of these talks. .

His words contrast sharply with those of the main British Protestant party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists, who want Britain to abandon the memorandum of understanding. They argue that restricting the flow of goods from the rest of the UK is undermining their union with Britain.

Gove suggested the protocol is here to stay.

“The protocol is drawn up through dialogue within the joint committee and specialized committees between the UK government and the European Union. We have solved some of the challenges, but other challenges need to be tackled effectively, ”said Gove.

“I think there is a will among the pragmatic figures in the European Union to make sure that we can make these arrangements work so that they do not negatively impact the lives of people in all the communities of Northern Ireland, ”he said.

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