Britain's Michael Gove in the House of Commons in London on May 19 2020. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PRU
Britain's Michael Gove in the House of Commons in London on May 19 2020. Picture: AFP PHOTO/PRU

London — Britain conceded on Wednesday that new, post-Brexit checks will be required on certain goods moving between the mainland and Northern Ireland, which it had previously ruled out.

The checks will not require new physical customs infrastructure, the government said in an update on its position regarding the Northern Ireland protocol, which was negotiated as part of Britain’s divorce deal from the EU to keep the Irish border open.

“We will, however, expand some existing entry points for agrifood goods to provide for proportionate additional controls,” it said.

The EU has strict rules on animal-based products entering its market, so any such goods entering the province of Northern Ireland from mainland Britain will need to be checked in case they are destined for member state Ireland.

UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove told MPs that any checks would be “very minimal”, with the “lightest possible touch” being applied.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told business leaders in Northern Ireland in November, while trying to sell his Brexit deal, that there would be “no checks” on goods. If they were asked to fill out extra paperwork, he said he would “tell them to throw that form in the bin”.

Asked about Johnson’s comment, Gove said there would be “no bins”, adding, “There will be no need for forms. It will all be done electronically.”

He also accepted that Northern Ireland would be locked into regulatory alignment with many EU rules until at least 2024.

Britain and the EU are currently negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal, but little progress has been made.

On Tuesday, London accused Brussels of making a sub-standard offer and urged it to give ground on its proposals to strike a quick deal. UK chief negotiator David Frost told his opposite number, Michel Barnier, that the EU was not offering a “fair free-trade relationship between close economic partners”.

Britain left the EU in January, nearly four years after a landmark referendum in June 2016 that saw voters choose to end nearly 50 years of integration with Europe. It remains bound by EU rules until December 31 as it tries to secure terms for a new relationship with its biggest trading partner.