Brussels chiefs are exploring ways to take advantage of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol to ensure Britain is bound by EU rules. A major source of contention has been the supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and the European Commission is said to be working on a long-term plan to tie manufactures to the bloc’s regulatory compliance functions.
A Whitehall source close to the ongoing negotiations surrounding the Protocol said the request to align to EU rules for medicines was “absurd”.
And now many Britons have urged the Prime Minister to abandon the agreement altogether and enact the emergency Article 16 legislation.
A number of furious Express.co.uk readers let loose against the EU proposals in the comments section of a previous story.
One reader wrote: “The EU is now forcing UK to move to WTO rules. UK should call the EU’s bluff as the UK has nothing to fear.”
A second reader added: “Anyone expecting co-operation from the EU is deluded.”
A third commented: “Just scrap the whole EU agreement, we now know the UK can survive without the EU and their never-ending problems and trade on world trade terms.”
Meanwhile, a fourth wrote: “Obvious this will never work, invoke Article 16 and get shot of the EU.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, but has effectively placed a trade barrier down the Irish Sea.
The mechanism ties Belfast to the EU single market and has resulted in increased checks on goods, including medicines, at risk of entering Europe.
The latest proposals on medicines would require UK firms to follow EU procedures after existing grace periods expire in December 2021.
UK ministers would also have to fully apply EU medicines legislation on quality, safety, and batch testing and release when approving goods for use in Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, the European Commission said the proposed solution would be “on the basis of a clear commitment from the UK to put in place the safeguards”.
If no solution is found it is feared drug supply chains could be reduced by as much as 90 percent.
Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic have been tasked with finding a solution.
Last month, Lord Frost said the UK and EU “cannot go on as we are” and called for “significant changes” with the current Northern Ireland Protocol arrangements.
The UK has put forward a number of proposals, such as a “standstill period” where existing grace periods are maintained, as well as a freeze on existing legal actions and processes.
Mr Sefcovic has said the EU was open to “creative solutions” but insisted the bloc would not renegotiate the entire Protocol.
Brexit talks between Lord Frost and Mr Sefcovic are set to continue in the coming weeks.
A UK Government spokesman said: “There has been ongoing technical contact over the summer with the Commission regarding the proposals we set out in the Command Paper.
“We will approach discussions in a spirit of ambition, imagination, genuine flexibility, and compromise.
“We set out in July the importance of providing certainty for businesses and citizens through ‘standstill’ arrangements as those discussions proceed, and welcomed the EU’s decision at the end of July not to proceed to the next stage of its legal proceedings.
“We will update traders in due course as to any developments in this regard.”