Cleverly hails Sefcovic as breakthrough made on vital medicine supply

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In a move that sees the bloc backtracking from its fight against the UK Government on the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said that current arrangements for veterinary medicines entering Northern Ireland, and also reaching Cyprus, Ireland and Malta from Great Britain, will be extended until December 2025.

The EU Brexit negotiator said the decision was a sign the bloc has “shown determination to find joint solutions with the United Kingdom government”.

He continued: “We have listened carefully to the concerns raised by stakeholders, particularly those in Northern Ireland.

“We understand those concerns. And that is why we are acting today.

“By extending the current arrangements to December 2025, we are giving ample time to adapt.

“This is a practical solution to a practical problem. And it underlines our genuine commitment to engaging constructively with the UK to find agreed solutions around the Protocol.

“I therefore hope that we can carry today’s positive announcement into other areas of our discussion.

“I am convinced that there is a window of opportunity for a positive outcome, for the benefit of people and businesses in Northern Ireland. My team and I will continue working around the clock to that end.”

Welcoming the announcement, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly replied: “Thank you Maros Sefcovic. I welcome this announcement which provides greater certainty for the veterinary medicines industry in Northern Ireland.

“We will continue to look for long-term solutions on the Protocol, including on vet meds, to provide political stability in NI.”

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The breakthrough comes as talks between the UK and EU to resolve the impasse over the contentious Brexit trading arrangements are continuing, with both sides insisting a deal is possible.

On Sunday, former Irish premier Bertie Ahern said he believes issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol can be resolved ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Ahern said he was hopeful the anniversary of the agreement will be able to be celebrated in April with a deal on the outstanding protocol issues met.

“The technical issues on the protocol, I believe, can be sorted out,” Mr Ahern told BBC One’s Sunday Politics Northern Ireland programme.

“I do understand that unionists and loyalists have concerns about the constitutional position. They do have concerns that have to be worked out and we have to take account of their views and try and find solutions to alleviate the concerns and fears. I think that’s very important.”

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The former Fianna Fail leader said “a lot of progress” has been made on the protocol issues.

“Hopefully over the early weeks of next year that can be dealt with,” Mr Ahern added.

“The concern about the constitutional issues … we have to work through with loyalists and unionists, and that hopefully that can happen too.

“So, I’m hopeful that when we get to April, we will be able to genuinely celebrate it and not in the way it is at present.”

Devolved government at Stormont has been in flux since February when the DUP withdrew its first minister from the ministerial executive in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP has insisted it will not allow a return to powersharing until radical changes to the protocol are delivered.

The region’s largest unionist party has blocked the formation of a new administration following May’s Assembly election and prevented the Assembly meeting to conduct legislative business as part of its protest over the protocol.

It claims the protocol has undermined Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom by creating economic barriers on trade entering the region from Great Britain.

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