Theo Paphitis blasts EU threats over Brexit trade relief to Northern Ireland – ‘Petty’

Brexit: Maitlis grills Barclay on grace period extension

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The Dragon’s Den star appeared on BBC Question Time, hosted by Fiona Bruce, alongside Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy yesterday to discuss the EU row over grace periods. The UK said it would act to unilaterally extend grace periods on trade with Northern Ireland to October, which sparked outrage from the EU, prompting claims Britain was in “violation” of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mr Paphitis was asked by Ms Bruce about the unilateral extension, and suggested neither the EU or UK are “happy with the deal”.

He said “I think the disappointing thing about this is we all signed this Brexit deal in a fanfare, utopia, we all thought it would be marvellous, and what is plain to see is that you have two very unhappy sides.

“Neither is happy with the deal and businesses, we’re finding out now, trying to deal with the EU is a nightmare, the pettiness that is going is unforgivable.

He added, when asked if it was “petty on both sides”: “Not to be biased here, but the point is we saw the first salvo with the Irish protocol. And that was just unbelievable.”

Referencing the EU’s decision to enact, and shortly withdraw, Article 16 of the protocol in January, he said: “It’s a very dangerous time.

“There is no question in my mind this is definitely going to build up to crescendo in the not too distant future.

“The latest news today, obviously the way the EU are acting with Italy and the EU blocking the export of the Oxford vaccine to Australia was another very worrying progression what I consider the pettiness.”

Concluding his remarks, he said this was “certainly not” the Brexit he was hoping for after voting to leave the EU in 2016.

He said: “I was hoping very much that we had done a deal a lot lot earlier, common sense would have prevailed a lot lot earlier, and the fact the will of the British people was quite clear to see, the EU should have accepted that fact, and between the UK Government and the EU, a deal that was in the best interest of both parties be agreed.

“But at the moment we seem to have a deal that was forced on both parties that neither party is happy with.”

Andy Palmer, former executive at Aston Martin and Nissan, disagreed with the Dragon’s Den star and thought the UK should have been “holier-than-thou”.

He said: “No I don’t. I can see why it was done, and the justification I can support but I think we had to be holier-than-thou.

“I think we had to set a good example and somehow make sure that it was negotiated and agreed. I think doing it unilaterally is not the right thing.

“All you’re doing is escalating tensions between the two sides, and we don’t need two sides.

“They are our principal trading partner, we need to get on with them, we need to move past Brexit, there are lots of other things that need to be solved.”

It comes after the European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič blasted the UK for its plan to extend the grace period on trade with Northern Ireland.

The European official stated the move, announced by Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, to exempt goods coming from Great Britain from checks amounted to a “violation” of the withdrawal agreement.

In a statement, he said: “This is the second time that the UK Government is set to breach international law.

“This also constitutes a clear departure from the constructive approach that has prevailed up until now.”

Mr Lewis claimed the UK Government had to act to protect supply trade to Northern Ireland to avoid food shortages.

He said: “We are taking forward a series of further temporary operational steps which reflect the simple reality that there is more time needed to adapt and implement new requirements as we continue our discussions with the EU.”

Previously, the UK had asked the EU for a two year extensions on the grace period exemptions to Irish Sea border checks, which Brussels refused.

A UK government spokesperson said: “Lord Frost explained that the measures announced today, following official-level notification to the commission earlier this week, were temporary technical steps, which largely continued measures already in place, to provide more time for businesses such as supermarkets and parcel operators to adapt to and implement the new requirements in the protocol.”

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