Latest in UK and EU talks over Northern Ireland Protocol: another crunch week ahead

Mon 1 Nov 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Irish Border

The UK and EU face another tough week of talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol, with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic warning the UK not to “embark on a path of confrontation”.

Sefcovic said there were limits to how far the EU could compromise and urged Lord Frost, his British counterpart, to reconsider the EU’s proposals to reduce checks on British goods entering NI under the protocol.

Writing in the Telegraph ahead of talks between UK and EU officials in Brussels, Sefcovic said: “With the EU’s package of enhanced opportunities from this October, we have gone the extra mile. But we have our limits, too, as we must protect the integrity of the EU’s Single Market and the interest of the 27 member states.”

Fewer checks

The EU has offered an 80% reduction in checks for retail agri-food products arriving in NI from Great Britain, with customs paperwork slashed by half. It has also offered to safeguard the supply of medicines.

However, Sky reports that Frost has claimed the European Union has behaved “without regard to the huge political, economic and identity sensitivities” in NI, and condemned the EU for destroying “cross-community consent” by over-strict enforcement.

His comments were published in the foreword to a new paper for the Policy Exchange think tank that sets out how Brexit negotiations unfolded from 2017.

NI remains subject to the rules of the EU Single market under the terms of the Protocol which was part of the Withdrawal Agreement. However, ongoing problems of implementation have led to disagreements between the EU and the UK which it is hoped this week’s talks can help resolve.

Catch of the day

Frost and Sefcovic are set to meet on Friday 5 November to decide whether progress has been made, with the role of the ECJ in governing the deal proving problematic. They are also likely to discuss the row over fishing between France and the UK.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has warned that France has 48 hours to back down from “unreasonable threats” it has made over fishing licences or the UK will begin dispute talks, reports the Guardian.

The UK claims that 1,700 licences have been granted to EU boats, equating to 98% of applications.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Commission president Ursula von der Leyden at the G20 summit at the weekend to call for a fix “rapidly” to prevent further disruption in NI, reports the Standard.

The BBC reports that a bus was seized in County Down this morning and set on fire in what is believed to be a protest over the Protocol.