The past week has seen two important grace periods extended.
These periods have been used in both the TCA and WA to allow the UK and EU enough time to make necessary preparations for full implementation, or that is at least the EU’s line.
The less-remarked of the two has been the granting of data adequacy to the UK’s rules for a four-year period to 28 June 2025, meaning that data can continue to move freely across the border. However, this has come with an unprecedented sunset clause and explicit powers to revoke it should the UK change those rules, which currently remain much as they were during membership.
As such, the discussion about reforming the UK’s regime might well end up bringing adequacy back to the table sooner rather than later.
The more-remarked was yesterday’s confirmation of a three-month extension to the chilled meat products exemption for Northern Ireland (UK declaration and EU response). This is problematic in different ways from data, in that the issue has been a failure by the UK to make conspicuous movement towards full implementation and the concern that this extension might be a prelude to an effort to get a semi-permanent delay to that occurring.
As a result, the EU’s comments on conditions and expectations are worth noting.
In a sense, both cases highlight the difficult road that this relationship is following. The degrading of trust during and following negotiations leads the EU to be very attentive to compliance, even as it makes efforts to avoid looking too inflexible. In that regard, the bundling of the chilled meats extension with other work on flexibility on the Protocol is as important, even if still most promissory.
For the UK, the almost permanently aggravating behaviour of the fist half of 2021 has soften a bit. The decision to ask for the chilled meat extension, rather than just announcing one, counts as a win here. Likewise, the signing of a bilateral agreement with Germany on security points to other paths for showing good faith is possible.
However, this path will be a very long one. There are clear issues with all the remaining grace periods, plus the negotiations and reviews, in the coming six months, not least the operationalising of the new format for fisheries quotas to be completed by New Year.
And that’s not even getting into the end of the application period for EU nationals to acquire Settled Status in the UK and the scope for removals.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as they say.