UK and EU ‘still far apart’ over Northern Ireland deal

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Talks between the UK and the EU are set to continue in London next week, despite the two sides being “far-fetched” on key issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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British officials this week described talks in Brussels as “constructive”, which came after the EU proposed new measures to ease trade barriers stemming from the agreed-upon Brexit deal.

But it is understood that there is still great division over Brexit minister Lord Frost’s demand to end the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in trade arbitration.


UK sources close to the talks warned that real progress should soon be made on issues of “governance”, adding that a process of “endless talks” would have to be avoided.

A team from the EU Commission is set to travel to London on Tuesday for several days of in-depth discussions, before meeting in person with Lord Frost and EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefkovic for talks at the end of the week.

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A UK government source said: “This week’s talks were constructive and we have heard some things from the EU that we can work with – but the reality is that we are still very much on the big issues, especially governance. are far.

“There has been a lot of speculation about the ruling this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in settling disputes between the UK and the EU must end.”

The source added: “We need to see real progress soon rather than get caught up in a process of endless negotiations because the ground issues in Northern Ireland have not gone away.”

The UK side said it wanted to see the momentum “soon” to find out whether the gap could be bridged – or if Boris Johnson was allowed to trigger Article 16 in his withdrawal deal to suspend the protocol arrangement. Strict action will be required to be taken.

The protocol, which was agreed to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland, has created a series of economic constraints on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The EU proposals would see an 80 percent reduction in checks envisaged for retail agri-food products coming from GB to NI. The EU plan also includes a 50 percent reduction in customs paperwork.

Despite months of complaints about the burden of border checks, Lord Frost has made it clear that the removal of the European Court’s oversight task in governing protocols is now a big red line for the UK.

Under the terms of the protocol – agreed by Mr Johnson in his 2020 withdrawal agreement – the ECJ will be the final arbiter in any future trade dispute between the two parties.

But the European Union Commission has insisted it will not move forward on the ECJ issue, with some reports suggesting that Brussels chiefs are ready for a trade war if a settlement deal cannot be reached.

EU officials may consider scrapping a post-Brexit trade deal if the UK government does not honor protocol commitments, sources have told bloomberg.

A Brussels source told the outlet that the EU would be able to justify a trade deal by stating that the agreement on Northern Ireland was a necessary condition for a trade deal.


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