European Union lambasts Boris Johnson over NI 'clarity'
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The EU has provisionally agreed new portable electronic devices must all use a USB Type-C charger. This is the charger typically used for Macbooks, and more recently the Nintendo Switch. However, according to EU and UK officials, the bloc’s ruling will also apply to Northern Ireland.
This due to the Northern Ireland protocol effectively keeping it inside the single market for goods, while mainland Britain remains outside it.
A December 2021 parliamentary report stated: “new requirements may also apply to devices sold in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit agreement, potentially triggering divergence of product standards with the rest of the UK”.
The Northern Ireland protocol has already proven hugely divisive for effectively creating a customs border in the Irish Sea – something which in 2020 Boris Johnson explicitly promised would only happen “over [his] dead body”.
A row between Mr Johnson’s Government and the EU over the specifics of his Brexit deal is still ongoing.
Rebellion against the PM by a large portion of his party may further scupper the government’s efforts to pass legislation on the protocol.
The EU’s new ruling states that all new phones and other devices must use the USB Type-C charger by autumn 2024.
Existing devices will be exempt.
Apple, whose mainline phones use “lightning” chargers exclusive to their products, has claimed the law “stifles innovation”.
They argued against the proposal when it was first introduced in September 2021.
A spokesman for the company told the BBC: “Strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world”.
The agreement will be brought before the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers after their summer recesses, where it can be formally approved and then published.
The ruling covers a range of “small and medium-sized portable electronics”, including mobile phones, tablets, handheld videogame consoles, portable speakers and headphones.
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Laptops will also need to follow the ruling, but manufacturers have been given 40 months after it comes into effect to make the necessary changes.
The agreement also includes a plan to enable customers choose whether or not they want a charging cable when they purchase new electronics, to “reduce electronic waste”.
In the announcement of the legislation, the EU said: “This law is a part of a broader EU effort to make products in the EU more sustainable, to reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.”
The bloc added it would save consumers “p to €250million [£213million] a year on unnecessary charger purchases”, and cut 11,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The UK Government has yet to state if it intends to pass similar legislation.
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