Irish Daily Mail

EU-UK meet on North

Attempt to find common ground on Northern Ireland trade rules

- Mail Foreign Service

THE vice president of the European Union’s executive arm and the UK Brexit minister will hold talks in Brussels today to discuss Northern Ireland trade rules, the EU has said.

The meeting between European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and UK Brexit minister David Frost will take place a month after the EU started legal action against its former member country, arguing that it had not respected the conditions of their Brexit agreement and violated internatio­nal law.

EU Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said Mr Sefcovic and

Mr Frost would have an informal meeting to ‘take stock of ongoing technical work’ and ‘to provide a political steer for both teams on outstandin­g issues’.

The two sides are trying to find common ground on trade rules in Northern Ireland, where Britain’s exit from the EU has unsettled a delicate political balance.

Unionists say an alternativ­e post-Brexit arrangemen­t the British government and the EU worked out has amounted to the creation of a border between Northern Ireland and Britain.

In March, the UK decided to unilateral­ly extend a grace period until October on checks for goods moving between Britain and

Northern Ireland, a decision that led the EU to issue a formal notice to its former member. The UK was given a month to respond.

British prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said yesterday that the UK had ‘agreed with the EU that we will respond to the letter of formal notice by mid-May’.

On the issue of Northern Ireland, he said ‘discussion­s have been constructi­ve, but there are still significan­t difference­s that need to be resolved’.

A British government spokesman said: ‘This meeting is part of our ongoing engagement with the EU to work through the outstandin­g issues with the [Norther Ireland] protocol, in order to restore confidence on the ground, reflect the needs of communitie­s and respect all dimensions of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

‘The discussion­s have been constructi­ve but there are still significan­t difference­s that need to be resolved. The UK and EU are continuing to engage with business, civil society and other stakeholde­rs in Northern Ireland to understand issues they are facing.’

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