Gap between UK and EU on protocol remains ‘substantial’ after latest talks

The distance remains “substantial” between the UK and the European Union in their attempt to find a resolution on the Northern Ireland protocol, the government said.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic met in London on Friday to continue trying to find a solution on how to reform the post-Brexit deal.

The UK and the EU have both presented proposals to settle the dispute over the protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal brokered by Lord Frost and signed by Boris Johnson aimed at avoiding a hard border with the ‘Ireland.

The terms effectively kept Northern Ireland in the single market, creating a border along the Irish Sea between Britain and the UK’s fourth nation.

But while Brussels said its reform proposals to reduce checks and red tape were “unprecedented and far-reaching”, London continued to reject them due to the dispute settlement role insisted on by the European Court. of justice – a red line for Lord Frost, who has set a December deadline for protocol negotiations.

The UK said the changes proposed by the EU did not go to the “extent necessary for a lasting solution”.

A government spokesperson said: “The talks of the week have proceeded in a constructive spirit.

“While there is some overlap between our positions on a subset of the issues, the gaps between us remain substantial.

“As we have already noted, the EU’s proposals represent a welcome step forward but do not liberalize the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland to the extent necessary for a lasting solution.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost joined talks on Friday (Aaron Chown / PA)

“They are also not making the necessary changes in other areas, such as subsidy policy, VAT and protocol governance, including the role of the Court of Justice.

“Our position remains that substantial changes to the protocol will be necessary if we are to find a lasting solution that works in the best interests of Northern Ireland and supports the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday).”

The reform measures proposed by the EU would result in an 80% reduction in the controls envisaged for retail agri-food products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain, with customs formalities cut in half.

The proposed changes also remove the prospect that some British products, including Cumberland sausages, will be banned from exporting to the region.

The EU has also proposed to legislate to ensure no disruption to Britain’s drug supply line to Northern Ireland, in a move that Conservative colleague Lord Frost has welcomed.

However, the measures proposed by the bloc offer no concessions on a key demand from the UK government, the removal of the oversight role of the ECJ.

A Commission spokesperson said: “The Vice-President recalled that the tailor-made arrangements proposed by the European Commission are unprecedented and far-reaching.

“They respond to concerns raised by residents and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“He called on the UK government to engage constructively with these proposals.

“It is now essential to find common ground between the respective positions of the EU and the UK.

“We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to find stable solutions as quickly as possible. The commission will spare no effort in this endeavor.

Discussions on the protocol will continue next week, with Mr Sefcovic, Lord Frost and their teams due to meet in Brussels on Friday 5 November.

About Natalee Broderick

Natalee Broderick

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