By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) – The European Union on Friday made a positive gesture to the UK amid the post-Brexit dispute, proposing legislation that will allow the British government to supply medicine to Northern Ireland on its own terms.
The European Commission presented a draft amendment to the bloc’s medicine legislation aimed at facilitating medicine supply in Northern Ireland, the EU executive body said in a press statement.
The proposal allows UK-authorized medicines to be sold in Northern Ireland and manufacturers to use the same packaging with guarantees that UK-produced drugs will not enter the EU market.
Under the new rules, “everyone in Northern Ireland will have access to the same medicines at the same time as elsewhere in the UK while ensuring that the integrity of the EU Single Market is protected,” Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president for interinstitutional relations, explained at a press conference.
The announcement came after a videoconference between Sefcovic and UK Brexit Minister David Frost on Friday.
The European Parliament and EU member states have yet to approve the amendment.
The move is a compromise in the EU-UK dispute over the application of a special protocol of the Brexit withdrawal agreement of October 2019.
With the intention to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, parties agreed on paper that Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU’s customs regime, and the UK would apply customs checks for goods coming from Northern Ireland.
However, the protocol turned out to be difficult to implement in practice.
In October, the European Commission proposed a set of new measures to simplify the certification system and reduce control for goods transported from other parts of the UK to Northern Ireland in the area of public, plant, and animal health.
Since the parties have been unable to reach an agreement on the remaining measures, negotiations will resume next year.
The UK left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020 after 47 years of membership.