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

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A 'Welcome to Northern Ireland' sign is seen at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in Jonesborough, Northern Ireland, October 13, 2021. (Reuters photo)

The United Kingdom and the European Union remain “far apart” on crucial issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The two sides held talks in Brussels this week over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, however, substantial differences remained.

“The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with – but the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office said in a statement released late on Saturday.

“There’s been plenty of speculation about governance this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end.”

“We need to see real progress soon rather than get stuck in a process of endless negotiation because the issues on the ground in Northern Ireland haven’t gone away.”

Britain and the EU disagree over how to implement customs and safety checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The checks, which fall especially heavily on meat, dairy and medical products, are part of a deal reached before Brexit to avoid more controversial border checks between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and EU member Ireland.

"Whether we're able to establish that momentum soon will help us determine if we can bridge the gap or if we need to use Article 16," the Saturday’s statement added, referring to the possibility of taking unilateral action to ease trade flows.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has created a series of economic barriers on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The EU made detailed proposals to ease the transit of goods on Oct. 13, but is not willing to give up the role of the European Court of Justice.

Talks with EU negotiators would move to London from Brussels next week, the UK said, noting its Brexit minister David Frost would meet European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic at the end of the week.

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