21:07 GMT17 April 2021
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    Earlier, the European Commission accused the UK of breaking international law for a second time after ministers said they would unilaterally extend a grace period on a number of checks on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    The European parliament has refused to set a date for its vote on the trade deal with the UK in protest against what the EU considers London's unilateral amendments to Northern Irish Brexit arrangements. 

    On Wednesday, the UK government extended a grace period for checks on some food imports to Northern Ireland, a move the EU said was a violation of the Brexit deal. 

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Thursday that Britain had informed the EU about its decision.

    "We notified the European Commission at official level earlier this week, we also informed the Irish government earlier this week, and then Lord Frost last night in his call with Sefcovic obviously discussed this at length and set out the rationale and reasons for it," the spokesman said, referring to discussions between David Frost, in charge of ties with the EU, and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, according to Reuters. 

    The spokesman also denied the EU's accusations, saying that such "types of operational measures are well precedented and common in other international trade agreements and are entirely consistent with our intention to fulfil our obligations under the protocol in good faith."

    The grace period was due to expire on 1 April but Britain has extended it until 1 October.

    After the rules governing the new relationship between the EU and UK took effect on 1 January 2021, a special protocol was introduced to maintain regulatory and customs alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and avoid a hard border.

    European Union, United Kingdom, Brexit
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