Stalemate in UK-EU talks over Northern Ireland

Demonstrators protest against Brexit at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, in Carrickcarnan, on Nov 20, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Negotiators for the UK and EU on Friday (Nov 26) ended another round of talks without agreement as they try to resolve difficulties with post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

Brexit minister David Frost said he and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic met in London and discussed "the full range of issues causing difficulties".

"We would still like a negotiated solution," he said, but warned "the gap between our positions is still significant" and suspending the so-called protocol was still an option.

"Technical discussions will continue next week and we will meet again next Friday."

The Northern Ireland Protocol is designed to prevent unchecked goods heading into the European single market and customs union via Northern Ireland's neighbour, EU member Ireland. It imposed border checks on goods destined for the British province from mainland Great Britain - England, Scotland and Wales.

Border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Ireland was removed as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of violence over British rule.

But the checks on Northern Ireland-bound goods has caused anger in unionist communities, who say it drives a wedge between the province and the rest of the UK.

The EU has proposed cutting the number of checks but the UK is opposed to European judicial oversight on disputes and is threatening to trigger the Article 16 suspension cause.

In a call with Irish prime minister Micheal Martin on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there needed to be a "rebalanced and sustainable outcome soon".

Brussels has warned of "serious consequences" if it does, potentially third-country tariffs and the scrapping of the wider Brexit trade and cooperation agreement.

EU ministers on Tuesday urged Britain, which left the EU in full in January, to bury the hatchet and implement what it signed, as the groundhog day of talks stretched towards Christmas.

The UK is separately embroiled in a row with France over fishing access to its waters that on Friday saw trawlermen disrupt cross-Channel ferry and freight traffic.

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