The EU has told the UK it must make concessions to resolve a trade dispute over Norther Ireland, as a senior Irish minister warned the dispute could lead to the collapse of the wider post-Brexit trade deal.
The Northern Ireland Protocol – a key part of the Brexit deal – was agreed between the UK and EU as a means of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, allowing free-flowing trade to continue with the EU.
European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost met in Brussels on Friday to discuss the disagreement.
“Until today, we have seen no move at all from the UK side. I find this disappointing and once again I urge the UK government to engage with us sincerely,” he said.
“We should focus all efforts on reaching a solution as soon as possible.”
The UK is demanding wide-ranging reform, arguing that the current agreement is having an adverse effect on British businesses. There is growing speculation it will trigger Article 16 , which allows parts of the protocol to be unilaterally suspended if they are causing serious difficulties.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney suggested the EU could terminate the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in response.
“One is contingent on the other so that if one is being set aside there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU,” he said.
Former British Prime Minister John Major warned that triggering Article 16 and suspending parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol would be “colossally stupid”.
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