EU is offering ‘creative solutions’ to trade – even on sausages

 EU is offering ‘creative solutions’ to trade – even on sausages

As the first EU Ambassador to the UK, I am honoured to play a part in shaping our new relationship as friendly neighbours and close allies.

Moving forward, we have to reenergise the implementation of the agreements we ratified so that we provide our citizens and our businesses with certainties for their future.

This week marked some important milestones in our new relationship.

On Monday, the EU took a decision that ensures the free and safe flow of data between the EU and the UK, which is important for smooth trade between us and for the effective fight against crime.

We also took an important step forward in the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, the EU put forward solutions in a number of areas, including for the continued supply of medicines and provisions for guide dogs, as well as a decision waiving the need to show an insurance green card, which is of particular benefit for motorists in Northern Ireland.

We have also accepted the UK’s request to extend a grace period for the movement of chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland until September 30 this year.

These solutions will help to ensure that the application of the Protocol impacts as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland.

We should also make sure that what we agreed on is fully implemented, so that the hard-earned gains of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement are not lost.

This week’s decisions highlight the EU’s commitment to – and ability to deliver – solutions that work.

Such developments are also an unquestionable response – as stated by European Commission Vice President Sefcovic on Thursday afternoon – to those in the UK suggesting that the EU is inflexible or too legalistic.

This is because, in some cases, notably on medicines, we have completely turned our rules upside down and inside out to find a solid solution to an outstanding challenge.

Who said we didn’t care? We do care.

And while we remain firm on the full implementation of the Protocol, we also continue to seek creative solutions.

Another important milestone this week was the ending of the grace period for EU citizens in the UK to apply to the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by June 30.

Millions of EU citizens have decided to make the UK their home. I am not surprised. The UK is renowned for being one of the most multicultural and dynamic countries in the world. They have brought with them skills and talents, which contribute to the UK’s prosperity across a whole range of areas.

As an unavoidable consequence of the UK no longer being part of the EU, freedom of movement ended on December 31 2020, and EU citizens living and working in the UK had to ensure that they had the right immigration status.

The EUSS was designed by the UK Government to address this and to provide a way for EU nationals to remain in the UK.

Together with the EU embassies and NGOs, the EU delegation in the UK has supported the Home Office in its task to get all EU citizens to apply.

I would like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to volunteers and campaigners – many of them also British – for their extraordinary work in helping EU citizens with their EUSS applications, particularly in the difficult context of the pandemic.

I would also like to praise the Home Office for their achievement in granting a status to over five million EU nationals.

Our constructive collaboration will continue, especially as we already know that many citizens might still need to submit an application, even if the deadline has now passed.

We now know the number of people who have applied to the scheme.

However, we still do not know whether it covers everyone who had the right to apply.

This is why we welcome the announcement that the Home Office plans to take a “benefit of the doubt” approach towards late applicants, and that they will mitigate the impacts of the compliant immigration environment for those who have not yet applied or who applied late.

It is also important that all those who are now required to conduct checks on EU citizens – for example, employers and landlords – understand this approach.

This is why we will continue to work closely with the UK authorities, the EU Member States embassies, support organisations and local communities to ensure that all citizens are protected.

The positive contribution by EU citizens in the UK – and by British citizens in the EU – represents all that is good in our relationship.

It also demonstrates how much we can achieve when we work together at bilateral or global level.

I am confident that the spirit of friendly and constructive co-operation that we all demonstrated this week will also prevail as we continue to develop our relationship as friendly neighbours and allies.

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