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The UK Government and EU are set for a collision course as intense negotiations start again in London this week. The EU has already conceded that checks on products like sausages or medicines will not have to take place between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
But it is still trying to keep its power over Ulster with a demand that any dispute over the protocol is resolved by its court ‑ the ECJ ‑ rather than a neutral body.
A UK Government source said: “The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with ‑ but the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance.
“There’s been plenty of speculation about governance this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end.
“We need to see real progress soon rather than get stuck in a process of endless negotiation because the issues on the ground in Northern Ireland haven’t gone away.
“Whether we’re able to establish that momentum soon will help us determine if we can bridge the gap or if we need to use Article 16 to safeguard the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”.
The UK team will be headed by Lord Frost who successfully negotiated the post-Brexit trade deal.
It is understood that while there was common ground in some areas, there were still substantial gaps on what were seen as fundamental issues mainly surrounding governance.
After officials wrangle over details early in the week, Brexit minister Lord Frost and EU Commission Vice President Sefcovic are then due to meet in person in Westminster for talks at the end.
The two leaders will take stock and assess progress so far.
The protocol, which was agreed by the EU and UK to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland, has created a series of economic barriers on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Measures proposed by the EU would see an 80 percent reduction in checks envisaged for retail agri-food products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
The proposed changes also remove the prospect of certain British produce, including Cumberland sausages, being banned from export to the region.
The EU plan to ease the resultant trade friction also includes a 50 percent reduction in customs paperwork required.
And more products and companies would be exempt from customs tariffs as a result of expanding trusted trader arrangements and a concept that differentiates between goods destined for Northern Ireland and those “at risk” of onward transportation into the Irish Republic.
The EU has also offered to legislate to ensure no disruption to the supply line of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Under the terms of the protocol, which was agreed by the UK and EU as part of the 2020 Withdrawal Agreement, the ECJ would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol.
UK Government sources said that the protocol agreement was in effect forced upon the UK because of the logjam created in Parliament by Remainers and the problems faced by Theresa May’s government.
The UK now wants to remove that provision and replace it with an independent arbitration process.
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