With ‘weak’ confidence, EU and UK exchange words ahead of post-Brexit talks – POLITICO
The EU ambassador to the UK admitted on Sunday that there was little trust between the two sides ahead of a meeting this week to discuss the contentious trade barriers with Northern Ireland.
Indeed, at the right time, UK Brexit Minister David Frost issued a editorial Sunday afternoon in the Financial Times calling on the EU to overhaul these barriers, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol – a plea the EU has already made resisted.
“Confidence levels are low right now,” EU Ambassador João Vale de Almeida told Times Radio. “We ultimately need to restore a minimum level of confidence that will allow us to find solutions. But, having said that … I remain confident that we can do it.”
After months of intense technical negotiations, hopes are slim for a breakthrough at the key meeting to be held Wednesday between European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Frost. Both will discuss the Brexit divorce deal, including the Northern Ireland protocol.
The protocol is a key part of the Brexit deal, aimed at protecting the EU’s single market on its border with the UK in Ireland. Under the agreement, Northern Ireland remained in the EU’s single market for goods. But border controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea have always resulted in disruption in the movement of goods, angering unionists and loyalists, who do not want the region to feel separated from the rest of the Kingdom. United
While some in Northern Ireland have pushed to simply scrap the protocol, Frost made an argument on Sunday to revise the deal instead.
“The balance we were hoping for has not been found,” Frost said. “We underestimated the effect of the protocol on the movement of goods to Northern Ireland, with some suppliers in Britain simply not sending their products due to the tedious paperwork required.
“The EU needs a new playbook for dealing with the neighbors, one that involves pragmatic solutions between friends, not the imposition of rules from one side to the other and legal purism,” a- he added.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney issued a stern warning during his meeting with Frost on Friday, saying European patience was running out of steam in the face of Britain’s obstruction of the MoU on Northern Ireland, as several EU officials said the UK was rejecting the options.
Out of nearly 30 points of contention identified in the UK-EU Joint Committee talks which began in April, only a few have been even partially resolved.
The EU also wants “more engagement” from the UK, Vale de Almeida recently said in an interview with POLITICO.
Cristina Gallardo contributed reporting.