Brussels is reportedly pressing to reopen Brexit talks with the UK in a desperate bid to soothe bitter relations around the row over Northern Ireland with the bloc continuing to formally launch legal action against the UK Government. But EU sources have revealed in a side deal struck at the end of last year allowing Britain grace periods for checks on goods crossing the Irish sea, the UK had also agreed to provide a plan that would highlight the “milestones” for the implementation of the protocol.
However, Brussels is claiming this has not happened, with Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney stating this should have included detail on the completion of border control posts at Larne and Belfast ports in Northern Ireland, as well as the provision of real-time data on the goods entering the country from Britain.
Mr Coveney has suggested the EU is willing to provide some flexibility – but only if the UK sticks to its promises.
He said if the two points in question were addressed, then the European Commission “would then be open to looking at more flexibility and more pragmatism in terms of some of the difficult elements of the [Northern Ireland] protocol from an implementation point of view”.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister told RTE there had been “some back and forth” between the two sides in recent weeks.
He added if the UK Government had provided a roadmap of how it planned to proceed, the EU could be prepared to look at flexibilities, including any extensions to grace periods.
Following a meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, Mr Coveney said: “I think certainly the EU side wants to get a process under way again, so that both sides are talking to each other.”
The comments from the Irish Foreign Minister suggest the EU may be willing to offer an olive branch to the UK in a bid to ease simmering tensions over the alleged breach Northern Ireland protocol that Boris Johnson signed up to in January last year.
Mr Sefcovic has reportedly spoken to Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost in recent days with the possibility of a bilateral meeting taking place before the end of the month, with the possibility of a meeting of the specialised committee on Northern Ireland to follow.
However, sources have indicated a full EU-UK joint committee not take place until the UK backs down on its firm stance.
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