UK and EU still ‘far apart’ on Northern Ireland trade

High-level talks will resume next week between the European Union and United Kingdom on rules governing trade in Northern Ireland but the two sides remain “far apart on the big issues,” a British government source said Saturday.

While insisting the U.K. government wants a speedy solution on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the source repeated London would not accept oversight by the EU’s highest court as part of a deal.

EU officials will travel to London on Tuesday for talks on the mechanism that was set up to avoid a hard border between the north and the south of Ireland. The mechanism was part of the Brexit agreement but has been challenged by the U.K. government.

The talks come after the issue lit up British politics this week with reports that Christmas crackers were facing import delays as a result of the rules, sparking fears citizens in Northern Ireland would be denied the popular holiday season amusements. The U.K. source said this was “yet another practical example” of why the Protocol isn’t working.

The European Commission last week presented new proposals but has not swayed British negotiators.

The main sticking point is the role of the European Court of Justice. The EU says it should keep an oversight role in trade disputes related to Northern Ireland. London wants the EU to replace it with an arbitration system similar to those in other international trade deals.

“Our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the U.K. and EU must end,” the U.K. government source said.

The U.K.’s Brexit minister David Frost and EU Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič are scheduled to meet in London at the end of next week.



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