Brexit news latest LIVE – 'Rogue agent' fears in Northern Ireland customs row as Gove demands protocol is 'refined'

"ROGUE" customs agents with "no knowledge or experience" are feared to be exploiting Brexit border chaos in Northern Ireland.

Customs expert Anna Jerzewska told The Independent that due to a lack of experts being hired, firms that don't have knowledge or experience in customs or rules of origin attempting to advise clients and charge clients with that advice – without having any kind of background in that.”

The news comes as it was claimed Red tape has made it easier for the EU to important lamb from New Zealand than get it from the UK.

Vast amounts of paperwork, petty bureaucracy and additional veterinary inspections required by the EU post-Brexit after driving up the cost and hassle of shipping iconic Welsh lamb on to the continent.

Making matters worse, the EU has a much more streamlined relationship with New Zealand, creating the bizarre situation where it is easier for European nations to get their lamb from halfway around the world.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest on Brexit and the EU…

  • Joseph Gamp

    GOVERNMENT'S 'POOR HANDLING OF BREXIT BEHIND SHELLFISH WOES'

    Ministers faced claims of making a "bollocks of Brexit" as the Government insisted it is urgently seeking to remove barriers placed on UK shellfish exports.

    SNP environment food and rural affairs spokeswoman Deidre Brock hit out at Boris Johnson's administration during Commons exchanges about restrictions placed on the export of some live shellfish to the EU.

    Environment Secretary George Eustice told MPs it should be possible to export shellfish to purification centres in the EU so they can be made ready to eat, and that such trade should continue.

    But he claimed Brussels has "changed its position", "made an error" in its interpretation of the law and the UK is seeking to resolve this matter urgently.

    Mr Eustice also told MPs one of the options available to the UK is to support the industry by "procuring the declaration equipment so it can be done here, and we will be exploring that and other options" if needed.

  • Joseph Gamp

    NI PROTOCOL TO BE DISCUSSED

    Michael Gove will discuss the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol with the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic on Thursday.

    “Progress is being made but we are very far from resolving all those problems,” he told MPs.

    The progress “has not been as fast as I would like”, he said, but “the commission has its own processes, I respect the integrity of those and I respect the desire of vice president Sefcovic to make progress”.

    Mr Gove said he believed the issues could be resolved within the Northern Ireland Protocol, without needing to trigger the Article 16 procedure to effectively override it.

  • Ben Hill

    'AFFRONT TO DEMOCRACY'

    The Northern Ireland Protocol is an "affront to democracy", the Apprentice Boys loyal order has said.

    Jobs will be lost and the cost of living will increase due to disruption caused by the post-Brexit trade arrangements, the institution predicted.

    It pledged to support any legal and peaceful action necessary to overturn the protocol's provisions.

    The Protestant organisation added: "The Northern Ireland Protocol, and the clear barriers it places between our islands, our families, friends and fellow citizens, in travel and trade, is the very opposite of an 'unfettered' United Kingdom promised by successive prime ministers since 2016."

  • Ben Hill

    SETTLED STATUS

    The United Kingdom has granted settled status to 4.3 million European Union citizens, more than the population of some of the bloc's member states, indicating that Brexit has not led to a vast exodus of EU nationals, a senior minister said on Monday.

    "There have been 4.9 million applications and 4.3 million grants of status, so there are more EU citizens in the UK than in some member states – which is great," Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told a parliamentary committee.

    "It is a great advertisement for this country," Gove. "People have chosen to stay in unprecedented numbers."

  • Ben Hill

    'BACK TO NORMAL'

    Trade flows from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are "back to normal", a Cabinet Office official said.

    Jessica Glover, director general of the Transition Task Force in the Cabinet Office, told the Commons European Scrutiny Committee: "GB to NI trade flows are back to normal and indeed slightly higher now than they were in the equivalent week last year.

    "So we are not seeing disruptions in trade flows on that route which is again a testimony to the really good work that many businesses I know have done to get themselves ready for those arrangements."

  • Ben Hill

    NI PROTOCOL TO BE DISCUSSED

    Michael Gove will discuss the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol with the European Commission's Maros Sefcovic on Thursday.

    "Progress is being made but we are very far from resolving all those problems," he told MPs.

    The progress "has not been as fast as I would like", he said, but "the commission has its own processes, I respect the integrity of those and I respect the desire of vice president Sefcovic to make progress".

    Mr Gove said he believed the issues could be resolved within the Northern Ireland Protocol, without needing to trigger the Article 16 procedure to effectively override it.

  • Ben Hill

    ‘RED TAPE’ CAUSING DIFFICULTIES CONTINUED…

    Tom Talbot said: "These relate to import declarations in relation to freight vehicle movements, postal parcels, export declarations and safety and security declarations.

    "So that's 1.8 million for the month of January. By way of comparison, we processed about 1.6 million declarations in the whole of 2020.

    "It gives that sense of scale, one month in, of the numbers that we're dealing with."

    He added: "However, we very much acknowledge that there have been intermittent performances with our import system.

    "We are very conscious of the impact that that has on trade and business moving goods, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused."

  • Ben Hill

    'RED TAPE' CAUSING DIFFICULTIES

    Revenue officials processed 1.8 million customs declarations in January 2021 – more than they did in the whole of last year.

    But customs IT systems have struggled to cope with the increased volume of declarations, resulting from post-Brexit red-tape, with officials admitting it has caused "major difficulties" for businesses.

    Tom Talbot, head of Revenue operations at Dublin Port, said they are interacting with their software providers and businesses to find solutions.

    He told a press conference on Monday: "Revenue has processed over 1.8 million customs declarations of different types in January, from the first of January to the first of February."

  • Ben Hill

    GOVE ON THE EU

    "It was a moment when trust was eroded, when damage was done and where movement is required in order to ensure that we have an appropriate reset," Gove, in charge of implementing the divorce agreement with the EU, told a parliamentary committee.

    "There are number of issues … where we believe that we do need refinement of the way in which the protocol operates for it to be effective in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland."

    Some Northern Irish politicians have complained that new rules have caused shortages in supermarkets and have impeded the delivery of other goods, and have called for the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol be scrapped.

    But the EU and Britain have agreed to "work intensively" to resolve the difficulties, and Gove is expected to meet European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic this week to try to find a way forward.

  • Ben Hill

    RESET NEEDED

    Britain and the European Union need to reset their relationship after trust was eroded by a row over vaccine supplies, British minister Michael Gove said on Monday, calling for a refinement of a deal covering post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

    Since Britain completed its journey out of the EU's orbit at the beginning of this year, trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom has become a flashpoint for ties with the bloc.

    Ties are strained, not only by years of bruising Brexit negotiations, but after the EU announced its plans for export controls on vaccines and threatened to use emergency measures that could create a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

    The EU swiftly changed position, but London hopes to capitalise on the gaffe, which united British politicians in their criticism, by trying to gain changes to the part of the Brexit divorce deal which covers trade with Northern Ireland.

  • Ben Hill

    FEARS FOR EMPTY LORRIES

    The number of lorries passing through Dover is almost back to typical levels but thousands of them are leaving the UK empty, it is feared.

    Around 6,000 lorries are passing through the busy Kent port each day and heading for Europe.

    They are coming into the country laden with goods for the market but there is concern that more than half are empty on the return journey.

    It comes just over a month after the UK left the single market following its departure from the European Union.

    Stockpiling ahead of Christmas and the new year led to a drop in traffic flowing out through Kent.

  • Ben Hill

    AGREEMENT NEEDS REFINING

    Britain believes there are a number of areas where an agreement with the European Union on post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland needs to be refined, Michael Gove, the British minister in charge of implementing the divorce deal, said on Monday.

    "There are number of issues … where we believe that we do need refinement of the way in which the protocol operates for it to be effective in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland," Gove told a parliamentary committee.

  • Ben Hill

    'BAFFLING' DECISION

    Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said the European Commission's hastily reversed decision to invoke Article 16 to prevent coronavirus vaccines from crossing the Irish border was "baffling".

    "It was wrong in so many ways, the fact the EU were going to use a mechanism we were told could only be used in extremis to stop vaccine from coming into the UK through Northern Ireland."

    She reiterated her criticism of the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying: "These are not just teething problems. There are huge problems and they need to be addressed."

  • Ben Hill

    BREXIT HITS FLOWER PRICES

    The British Florist Association said organised couples who ordered their bouquets long before Sunday should be fine.

    It’s the forgetful beaus who could be hit with a price hike.

    The spokesman said: “Although the prices are going up, the red roses for Valentine’s Day have been pre-ordered at least a couple of months in advance.

    “Regardless of the fact that prices have gone up on other varieties, the price of red roses has remained pretty steady because of the pre-ordering.”

    She said growers, who plan months in advance for the most romantic day of the year, grow “literally thousands of red roses” with most florists pre-ordering, likely before we left the EU.

  • Ben Hill

    MEN GRANTED BAIL

    Two men charged with painting graffiti in a Northern Ireland port town condemning Irish Sea border checks have been granted bail.

    William Donnell, 21, from Belfast Road in Larne and Mitchell Leeburn, 25, from Deerpark Road, Kilwaughter, Larne appeared before Coleraine Magistrate's Court on Monday via video-link from a PSNI custody suite in Antrim.

    Both face several counts of criminal damage and a further count of possessing an article, namely spray paint, with intent to damage property.

    All the alleged offences occurred on Saturday in Larne.

  • Ben Hill

    TRADING MOVED FROM LONDON

    Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) said on Monday it will move its trading of European carbon futures and options to its Netherlands-based exchange in Amsterdam from London during the second quarter, in the latest sign of financial activity leaving Britain for the bloc due to Brexit.

    The City of London has been largely cut off from the EU since Jan. 1 as the new UK-EU trade deal now in force does not cover financial services market access.

    EU carbon allowances (EUAs) are the currency used in the EUs emissions trading system (ETS), the 27-member bloc's main tool to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    NI PROTOCOL 'AFFRONT TO DEMOCRACY' SAYS APPRENTICE BOYS

    The Northern Ireland Protocol is an "affront to democracy", the Apprentice Boys loyal order has said.

    Jobs will be lost and the cost of living will increase due to disruption caused by the post-Brexit trade arrangements, the institution predicted.

    It pledged to support any legal and peaceful action necessary to overturn the protocol's provisions.

    The Protestant organisation added: "The Northern Ireland Protocol, and the clear barriers it places between our islands, our families, friends and fellow citizens, in travel and trade, is the very opposite of an 'unfettered' United Kingdom promised by successive prime ministers since 2016."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    EU 'UNDERESTIMATED DIFFICULTIES' OF COVID JAB ROLLOUT

    Mrs von der Leyen admitted the EU had "underestimated the difficulties" involved in rolling out new Covid vaccines.

    She said: "I realise, looking in the rearview mirror, that we should have thought more, in parallel, about mass production and the challenges it poses."

    The EU has only jabbed 3.22 per cent of its adult population, compared to 15.5 per cent of people who have had at least one jab in the UK.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    URSULA VON DER LEYEN SAYS UK IS LIKE A 'SPEEDBOAT'

    Eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged how Brexit has helped the UK way outpace the rest of Europe with its jabs rollout.

    She said: "Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a tanker.

    "Before concluding a contract with a pharmaceutical company, the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not.

    "This naturally delays the process. We must constantly pressure ourselves so each step of the decision-making process is as fast and efficient as possible."

    Credit: Reuters
  • Ben Hill

    TRADE DEALS

    Britain secured two trade deals worth more nearly £1.3bilion in less than 24 hours.

    Liz Truss struck with plucky Ghana and another with Albania last week.

    The Trade Department announced the double whammy of good news for Brexit Britain's trade goals.

    It means duty-free and tariff-free access for Ghana to the UK's market, giving Brits more access to bananas, tuna and cocoa.

    And will also mean preferential tariff reductions for UK exporters to the Ghanaian market too, giving them the chance to sell whisky, cars, clothes and other luxury goods to more people.

  • Ben Hill

    LOCKDOWN AND BREXIT ENCOURAGE GARDENING BOOM

    Seed sales have rocketed during the lockdown as green-fingered enthusiasts clamour to grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers.

    Real Seeds, which sells heirloom vegetable seeds online, had to temporarily suspend sales because people were placing orders at a rate of 2,000 per hour compared with about 900 per week before the pandemic.

    Kate McEvoy, who runs the company in Newport, Pembrokeshire, said: "It seems like the pandemic is just the last of many things increasing demand, as before the pandemic it was Brexit."

  • Ben Hill

    SHOPPERS' GAIN

    Shoppers are reaping lower prices in supermarkets as store bosses brush off worries over EU import costs.

    New research shows little sign of a post-Brexit inflation spike as supermarkets appear to have avoided passing on any extra costs incurred importing goods into the UK so far this year.

    A study by retail magazine The Grocer, which tracked the cost of more than 61,000 grocery items, found overall supermarket prices were marginally cheaper in January than they were a year ago.

    The overall index of prices, which includes the major supermarkets, saw average prices fall 0.1 per cent in January.

  • Ben Hill

    WHEEL CLAMPS

    Dozy truckers waiting to board cross-Channel ferries are in for a shock.

    Kent County Council is going to bring in special powers to wheel-clamp them as they sleep in their cabs.

    The council says truckers parking up overnight in lay-bys approaching and leaving the Channel ports risk waking up to find their vehicle has been immobilised.

    Fed up with the sound of snoring shaking the rooks from their treetop nests, the council will make sleepy drivers pay a £150 release fee and a £35 penalty charge before they can move on.

  • Ben Hill

    NOT SO HAPPY VALENTINES

    THE cost of buying your lockdown beau a beautiful bouquet of roses for Valentines Day has shot up – due to Brexit.

    Most of the flowers are grown in Ecuador and Colombia.

    But the bloc has slapped an eight per cent tariff on them.

    This is regardless of whether that country has a trade agreement with Britain, insiders said.

    It is bad news for romantics ahead of Valentine’s Day this Sunday

  • Ben Hill

    BREXIT RED TAPE CONTINUED…

    Keating added: "The arts have been hit suddenly, massively over the last 12 months…

    "My band, my crew, they haven't had any support whatsoever, so they've been really struggling.

    "So, to get back to work and the live performances are incredibly important."

    Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood told Sky News: "For bands like us, we're fortunate, we have accounting, legal services to cover the new red tape…

    "But what about bands that are coming up, to be future Radioheads… over the next decade? That's the big worry."

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