The European Union is seeking to postpone the ratification of the post-Brexit trade deal, a move that is likely to add to the tension that has characterized the bloc’s relationship with the U.K. since the two sides signed the accord in December.
On Wednesday, the European Commission said that it wanted to delay the provisional application of the agreement from the end of February until April 30 to give time for governments and EU lawmakers to scrutinize the trade pact.
The European Parliament has to vote on whether to approve the deal before the end of the provisional period. Officials on both sides said it’s highly unlikely lawmakers will seek to vote down the accord. Any delay, though, would still have to be approved by both the U.K. and EU.
“It’s a little surprising the EU wish to change it quite so soon, David Frost, the U.K.’s chief Brexit negotiator, said to a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday after being told informally by the EU that it wanted more time. Frost said he didn’t think there is “any wish on the U.K. side “to extend this more than necessary.
Tensions between the U.K. and EU escalated dramatically on Jan. 29 when the commission threatened to trigger an emergency clause in the Brexit divorce deal to curb vaccine exports to Northern Ireland. The EU reversed the decision within hours, and has since conceded it made an error.
U.K. Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove is set to discuss the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol with commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic at a meeting in London on Thursday evening.
Faced with growing delays at the border that are stirring discontent among voters, the British government is seeking to postpone the introduction of full checks on food destined for supermarkets, medicines and parcels moving into the province from the rest of the U.K. until 2023. The EU is unlikely to agree to such a lengthy delay.