EU-UK deadlock at summit of post-Brexit customs negotiations

Discussions between EU and UK officials on how to resolve post-Brexit trade concerns over Northern Ireland will resume on Tuesday (October 26th) in London.

“We have engaged constructively and intensively with our British counterparts, these discussions will continue in London this week,” said a spokesperson for the committee.

UK Brexit Minister David Frost and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for leading the EU’s post-Brexit team, are expected to meet at the end of the week in Westminster.

Two weeks ago, the committee put forward new proposals on how to ease bureaucracy and trade barriers between Northern Ireland, which is still part of the bloc’s single goods market, and mainland Britain to ease tensions.

Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland say the current arrangement, which the London government has agreed to, undermines the province’s place in the UK.

The proposals were not a “take it or leave it” offer, the committee said at the time, just the start of talks.

Over the weekend, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said the talks were constructive.

“But the reality is that we are still a long way off on the big issues, especially governance,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The London government opposes the role of the EU’s highest court in monitoring the deal, being the final interpreter of EU rules.

However, the EU has been adamant that EU rules – applicable for the single market – should only be interpreted by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

One way out of the conundrum could be the so-called “Swiss model” of agreeing to set up an arbitration panel to settle disagreements over protocol governing relations with Ireland. of the North, the CJEC retaining a role of interpretation of questions of EU law. .

Politically, this remains perhaps the hardest part for London to come to terms with, as the Johnson government insists on getting rid of European Court oversight.

Over the weekend, Johnson reiterated his threat to unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

“The fact that we are able to build this momentum soon will help us determine whether we can bridge the gap or whether we should use Article 16,” the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office added.

Article 16 is the part of the agreement that allows the temporary suspension of both sides.

However, if one party uses Article 16, the other may take “proportionate rebalancing measures”, according to the agreement.

The EU may consider ending the post-Brexit trade deal if the UK government triggers Article 16, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

The decision would require the support of the 27 EU governments and lead to a period of reflection before tariffs, quotas and other trade come into force between the EU and the UK.

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