Brexit: Andrew Neil claims EU 'terrified' of UK success in 2018
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Brussels officials have put it to their UK counterparts 90 percent of border checks could be wiped out – but only if the UK agrees to align food standards with those of the bloc. Caution is being urged on the matter, with Ireland’s Europe minister Thomas Byrne warning the situation is “delicate”, but he admitted it would be “excellent” if such a deal could be agreed as it would solve problems in Northern Ireland and those facing exporters in Britain. However, any such agreement on food would seem unlikely because it would represent a monumental U-turn for the UK, which has stood firm on most of its red lines in negotiations and has strongly been against regulatory alignment to achieve a hard Brexit.
It has been suggested if the UK is willing to adopt an agreement similar to that operating for Australia and New Zealand agrifood trade, then border checks could be significantly eased – solving a problem that has left tensions simmering over recent weeks.
But industry insiders have warned this would still not address concerns from loyalists as it would still require a significant amount of paperwork.
The dramatic new development comes with UK and EU officials currently involved in intense “technical talks” throughout this month over the future checks on food, plants and parcels going from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Downing Street has said talks are constructive but there are “still significant differences that need to be resolved”.
Sources on both sides have said that while progress is being made, there hasn’t been a focus on removing checks on goods but instead looking at eliminating the series of “rolling deadlines” from the implementation of border controls.
Last week, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told political parties in the country during a visit to Belfast that the contentious protocol would not be scrapped.
The came despite demands from the DUP among others following seven successive nights of violence on the streets of Belfast.
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7.53am update: Britain bouncing back! UK economy grows despite lockdown as EU states face new measures
Britain’s economy showed signs of improvement towards the end of the first quarter of the year, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown.
The economy showed signs of improvement thanks to the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, according to the ONS.
Following Brexit, exports to the EU have also begun to recover to levels seen before the UK’s exit from the EU. After the UK was hit by a huge rise in cases in December, retailers saw an increase in figures towards the end of the quarter.
Although figures have not recovered completely to pre-pandemic levels, the UK’s vaccine rollout is expected to help the economy surge in the second quarter.
The UK’s GDP grew by 0.4 percent in February after a 2.2 percent decline in January.
Experts had predicted a larger increase in GDP this month, but they also revised down the drop in January from 2.9 percent to 2.2.
In terms of exports to the EU, goods rose by 47 percent in February while imports were up by seven percent.
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