LONDON (AP) – The UK government on Saturday tried to step up the pace of talks to resolve post-Brexit trade issues with the European Union, saying the two sides remain distant and time is running out to bridge the gap.
Negotiators from the UK and the EU met in Brussels last week to try to resolve the main disputes that have arisen over trade rules for Northern Ireland. The talks take place in London on Tuesday, and Britain said “substantial gaps on fundamental issues remain.”
The UK government said the talks so far had been “constructive” but added that “we need to see real progress quickly rather than getting stuck in a never-ending negotiating process because the problems on the ground in Ireland of the North have not disappeared “.
Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and shares a border with EU member Ireland, remains within the EU’s single duty-free market for goods, although the United Kingdom left the bloc of 27 countries at the end of 2020.
This special status ensures that there is an open border on the island of Ireland – a key pillar of the Northern Ireland peace process since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. But it means a new customs border at sea Ireland for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, even if they are part of the same country.
This has created red tape for businesses and caused problems with some goods reaching Northern Ireland. EU rules on chilled meats have resulted in a brief shortage of sausages, and now Britain says Christmas cookies – festive noisemakers who are a staple for the holiday season – are prevented from reaching Northern Ireland.
The new deals have also angered British Unionists in Northern Ireland, who say the controls are undermining Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and destabilizing the delicate political balance on which peace rests.
The EU accuses Britain of trying to renegotiate a legally binding agreement it signed less than a year ago; some officials say this shows the UK government cannot be trusted. The bloc, however, agreed to make changes to the deal, proposing to cut controls on food, plants and animals entering Northern Ireland by up to 80% and cut red tape for businesses by half. transport.
Britain has welcomed the proposals, but also demands that the EU’s highest court be stripped of its role in resolving any disputes over the deal and replaced with independent arbitration – an idea the bloc categorically rejects.
EU chief negotiators Maros Sefcovic and Britain’s David Frost are due to meet in London at the end of next week to assess the progress of the talks. Britain on Saturday reiterated its threat to trigger an emergency break clause that allows either side to suspend the deal in dire circumstances if there is no upcoming breakthrough.
This would lead to legal action from the EU and potentially economic sanctions that could escalate into a trade war. Such a battle is likely to hurt the UK economy more than that of the much larger EU.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also warned the talks could not go on forever and on Friday urged Britain to respond to the EU’s willingness to compromise.
“I think the EU has shown a real appetite for compromise, and they have consciously avoided creating tensions,” he said. “I cannot say the same for the UK government’s approach.
“I don’t think it will be forever, that the EU will be in compromise and solutions mode.”
Follow AP’s coverage of post-Brexit developments at https://apnews.com/hub/Brexit