BRITAIN has been urged to “very seriously consider” concluding a veterinary agreement with the EU, to reduce tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol.
Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Michael Martin said this could remove “up to 80 percent of checks”, on good travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. However, this would mean the UK agreeing to align with EU rules in a number of areas, significantly boosting Brussels’ influence.
The arrangement, called a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), would tie Britain to certain EU rules.
President Biden has insisted this won’t stop the UK signing a new trade agreement with the US.
Speaking to Sky News Mr Martin said: “I believe the US administration’s comments are interesting in so far as they deal with a significant issue that would concern the British government, i.e. the capacity to do a trade deal with the United States whilst also having an SPS arrangement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“In my view, there’s a legitimate issue there for the United Kingdom Government, but in our view, an SPS agreement would deal with up to 80% of all of these issues and I think it’s a prize worth certainly exploring in the fullest manner possible.”
Under the terms of Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement checks now take place on many goods passing between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.
However, this has infuriated unionists, who argue it undermines British sovereignty.
More checks are due to be added at the end of this month unless the UK unilaterally delays them.
These will include new restrictions on fresh meat, which have sparked concerns over whether British sausages would be able to enter Northern Ireland.
Mr Martin said it would be “very problematic” if the UK decides to delay imposing this.
Loyalists have been protesting against the Northern Ireland protocol across the province.
Mr Johnson has argued the deal can only work if the EU takes a more flexible approach to enforcement.