EU Presses Boris Johnson Over Irish Customs Checks After Brexit By Bloomberg

© Bloomberg. Boris Johnson Photographer: Leon Neal/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) — The European Union warned the U.K. to set out what steps it will take to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Britain’s final break with the bloc at the year-end — a sign that of the most explosive arguments in Brexit is still far from resolved.

Members of the joint EU-U.K. committee on implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement held their first meeting by teleconference on Monday, according to a statement released by the EU on Monday.

They met amid growing speculation that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to postpone Britain’s final parting with the EU as the coronavirus pandemic puts politics as normal on hold. So far, the government in London has ruled out extending the post-Brexit transition period beyond Dec. 31.

Aide from negotiating a trade agreement by then, the two sides also need to implement the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. That means agreeing what customs checks will be needed on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland — the key concession that broke the Brexit deadlock last year.

So far, Johnson has been unwilling to ask ports to implement those inspections, prompting protests by the Irish government and concern in Brussels that Britain is backsliding from the Brexit deal.

“There is an urgent need to present a detailed timetable and proceed with the necessary measures, such as preparing for the introduction of customs procedures for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain,” the EU said in its statement.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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