LONDON: The British government tried on Saturday to speed up talks with the European Union to resolve post-Brexit trade problems, saying the two sides are too far away and time is running out to bridge the gap. .

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UK and EU negotiators have met in Brussels last week to try and resolve key differences that have emerged over trade rules for Northern Ireland. Talks moved to London on Tuesday, and Britain says “substantial gaps remain on fundamental issues.”

The UK government said the talks so far have been “constructive”, but added that “we need to see real progress soon rather than get caught up in a process of endless negotiations as the ground issues in Northern Ireland have not gone away”.


Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and shares a border with EU member Ireland, remains inside the EU’s tariff-free single market for goods, even though the UK joined the 27-nation bloc at the end of 2020. have left.

This special status ensures that Ireland has an open border on the island – a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. But it also means a new customs limit for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain in the Irish Sea, even if they are part of the same country.

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This has brought red tape to businesses, and caused problems with some goods reaching Northern Ireland. EU regulations on chilled meats led to a brief shortage of sausages, and Britain now claims that Christmas crackers – making festive noises that are a holiday party staple – are being prevented from reaching Northern Ireland.

The new arrangements have also angered Northern Ireland’s British federalists, who say the Czechs undermine Northern Ireland’s place in Britain and destabilize the delicate political balance on which peace rests.

The EU accused Britain of trying to renegotiate a legally binding agreement it had signed less than a year ago; Some officials say it shows the UK government cannot be trusted. However, the bloc has agreed to make changes to the deal, offering to reduce checks on food, plants and animals entering Northern Ireland by up to 80% and cut paperwork for transport companies by half. .

Britain has welcomed those proposals, but is also demanding that the EU’s top court be stripped of its role of resolving any disputes over the agreement and replaced with independent arbitration – a view that which the block explicitly rejects.

EU chief negotiators Maros Sefkovic and Britain’s David Frost are due to meet in London at the end of next week to assess the progress of the talks. Britain on Saturday reiterated its threat to trigger an emergency break clause that allows both sides to suspend the agreement in extreme circumstances if there is no breakthrough soon.

This would bring legal action from the EU, and potential economic sanctions that could spiral into a trade war. Any such fight is likely to do more damage to the UK economy than to the much larger EU.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also warned that talks could not last forever, and on Friday urged Britain to respond to the EU’s desire for a compromise.

“I think the EU has shown a real appetite for compromise, and they have deliberately avoided creating tension,” he said. “I cannot say so in the context of the British Government’s point of view.

“I don’t think it will be forever, that the EU will be in compromise and resolution mode.”