Q: Is the European court of justice a red line for you? And what will you do if article 16 is triggered?
Sefcovic says he wants to stick to a positive agenda today. He says these ideas should be appealing.
Sefcovic says he hopes UK and EU ‘in home stretch’ in terms of reaching agreement
Sefcovic is says these measures would cement “stability and predictability” in Northern Ireland.
He says he briefed the EU member states and the European parliament on the plans today.
He says he hopes the UK government will engage.
And he says he hopes they are “in the home stretch” in this process.
Sefcovic is now talking about the community engagement aspects of the plans. See 5.33pm.
Sefcovic is now talking about the customs plans.
He says customs formalities for some goods will be cut in half.
He says this will be possible if the right safeguards are put in place, including real-time access to databases, and better market surveillance.
Sefcovic is now talking about agri-foods.
He says the plans apply to goods for sale in Northern Ireland only.
There would be an 80% reduction in checks compared to what is required today.
If you have a business importing, say, yoghurts or chickens into Northern Ireland, 80% of checks will be removed, he says.
That means if you are transporting 100 different food products, only one certificate is required, not 100, he says.
But the UK would have to do its best by ensuring permanent border posts are up and running, as it agreed a long time ago, he says.
at 12.49pm EDT
Sefcovic starts with the proposals on medicines. (See 5.33pm.)
The EU is ready to legislate for these plans, he says.
at 12.49pm EDT
Sefcovic says plans will make ‘real, tangible difference on the ground’
Sefcovic says he would call this “the package of enhanced opportunities”.
He says the EU has an “unwavering commitment” to the people of Northern Ireland.
These plans could make a “real, tangible difference on the ground”, he says.
He says he can say that confidently because the EU has spent a lot of time listening to what people want, he says.
A lot of work has gone into this, he says. At times the plans go beyond what EU law allows, he says.
The press conference is starting now.
Maros Sefcovic says he thinks this is “an important moment” in EU-UK relations.
EU offers to scrap 80% of NI food checks but prepares for Johnson to reject deal
And here is the Guardian story on the proposals from my colleagues Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin.
This is how it starts.
The EU has offered to abandon 80% of checks on supermarket goods that enter Northern Ireland from Britain but officials in Brussels conceded they were “preparing for the worst” amid signs Boris Johnson is unlikely to accept the deal.
Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit commissioner, presented four papers at a press conference on Wednesday evening as he sought to bring an end to the destabilising tussle between the UK and Brussels, saying they were not being presented on a “take it or leave it” basis.
An appeal was made for pragmatism from Johnson but the chances of a compromise appeared low. David Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, remains insistent that an entirely new protocol should be negotiated that does not have a role for the European court of justice (ECJ) as an arbiter of EU law in Northern Ireland.
A three-week negotiating period is expected for talks over the EU’s new proposals but Brussels is equally determined that it will not renegotiate the fundamentals of the tortuously negotiated protocol which keeps Northern Ireland within the single market, policed by the ECJ, and draws a customs border down the Irish sea.
Full details of how EU is proposing to change Northern Ireland protocol
PA Media has summarised the plans being announced now by Maros Sefcovic. Their report based on an advance briefing.
PA says the plans cover four specific areas, with a paper dedicated to each. They are agri-food goods, customs, movement of medicines and engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders.
Here are the details from the PA report.
The EU is offering what it describes as a “bespoke Northern Ireland-specific solution” on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules.
It would see an 80% reduction in spot checks that would have been required on retail goods arriving in Northern Ireland if the original protocol was implemented in full.
The requirement to submit documentary information online ahead of shipping the goods will remain, but the EU said it envisages an 80% reduction in both identity checks on lorries arriving at ports and the more intensive physical inspections of their contents.
The EU is also proposing a significant reduction in certification requirements on multi-product consignments.
Under the protocol, lorries bringing agri-food products into the region are required to have vet-approved export-health certificates for each different product line on the vehicle.
A grace period exemption means this requirement has yet to be applied.
The EU is proposing that instead of certificates for all products, which could potentially amount to 100-plus per lorry, each vehicle would instead only need one all-encompassing certificate.
This measure would cover retail SPS goods bound for use by consumers in Northern Ireland.
The European Commission is also proposing relaxing laws that would have seen some “high risk” GB produce, such as chilled meats, being banned from export into Northern Ireland.
Again this prohibition has yet to come into effect as it is covered by an ongoing period.
The EU said it will allow the movement of these products in the long term if the UK can demonstrate there is an issue sourcing supplies from within Northern Ireland.
That would allow the continued import of British produce such as Cumberland sausages.
Added certification requirements would be applied on certain high-risk produce entering Northern Ireland.
The EU proposals on SPS goods apply to products that originate in Great Britain.
In return for the concessions on agri-food rules, the EU is asking for added safeguards to ensure products remain within Northern Ireland and do not end up in the Irish Republic.
Those include labelling, so certain items are clearly identified as being for sale in UK/NI only.
The bloc says the light-touch arrangement will only work if the UK follows through with unfulfilled commitments to build new border control posts in Northern Ireland and give the EU real-time access to trade-flow data.
The EU says its proposals on customs will halve the volume of paperwork needed on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This will be achieved by expanding the number of businesses and products covered by trusted trader arrangements and a concept that differentiates between goods destined for Northern Ireland and those “at risk” of onward transportation into the Irish Republic, or elsewhere in the EU.
Those products deemed “not at risk” would not be subject to customs duties.
The arrangements were originally only envisaged for NI-based manufacturers with a low turnover.
Under the EU proposals they will be extended to include manufacturers with higher turnovers and GB suppliers.
Another practical consequence will mean companies dealing in NI-destined products will only need to submit basic customs information, such as a copy of an invoice, rather than comprehensive EU customs code data sets that would otherwise have been required.
The EU intends to pass legislation that will enable trade of medicines between GB and NI to continue.
Under the protocol, this supply chain would have been severely disrupted when an ongoing grace period lapses, as Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are in different regulatory zones for pharmaceuticals.
The EU law change would allow GB-based pharma suppliers to maintain their current regulatory arrangements.
The EU wants to improve information exchange between the European Commission and stakeholders in Northern Ireland, such as politicians, business representatives and other members of civic society, to ensure the application of the protocol is more transparent.
This would see the establishment of structured groups to provide a forum for discussion on key issues related to the implementation of the protocol.
It would also see stakeholders invited to some meetings of the joint UK/EU committees that oversee the protocol.
The EU says it also wants to create a stronger link between the Stormont assembly and the EU/UK parliamentary partnership assembly.
It also intends to create a website to show how EU legislation is applicable in Northern Ireland.
EU press conference announcing proposed changes to Northern Ireland protocol
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president, is due to start the press conference where he will announce the EU’s plans to change Northern Ireland protocol very soon.
There is a link to the live feed here.
There is uncertainty over whether a meeting between the Irish government and the Northern Ireland executive on the environment and marine aquaculture will take place later this week, PA Media reports. PA says:
Stormont’s executive committee heard that the minister for agriculture, environment and rural affairs, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, has not confirmed if he will attend.
It comes as the DUP stages a boycott of north-south meetings in an act of protest against the Northern Ireland protocol.
Earlier this week a high court judge in Belfast ruled the boycott in protest is unlawful.