U.K. Brexit Talks With EU Expected to Continue for Several Weeks
The U.K. and European Union are seeking to cool tensions over a thorny Brexit dispute related to Northern Ireland as they prepare to engage in weeks of intensive negotiations over how to resolve it, according to people familiar with the discussions on both sides.
The negotiations are reducing the imminent threat of drastic action, such as trying to pull out of the Northern Ireland protocol that is in place to maintain an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The EU is planning to offer a set of proposals next month aimed at addressing British complaints about the Northern Ireland protocol, according to a person familiar with the planning, who added that the details would be presented first to the U.K. That is expected to trigger intensive talks that could last until December.
Senior figures in the opposition Labour party raised concerns earlier this week that the U.K. government might seek to distract from ongoing fuel and food shortages by suspending parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.
But the British government won’t be doing that anytime soon, according to a person with knowledge of London’s position.
Any decision to trigger Article 16 of the accords, which allows either side to suspend elements of the agreement if it is causing serious problems, would ultimately be U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call.
At the end of September, chilled meats and fresh sausages were due to face a ban from going into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K., while food products faced extra customs inspections. But that deadline was effectively delayed after the U.K. extended post-Brexit grace periods and the EU held off taking any legal action
The two sides have been locked in discussions to try and resolve the issue for months and have repeatedly held off making any dramatic moves. Johnson’s government published a so-called command paper in July proposing to rewrite a part of the Brexit deal that effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the bloc’s customs area and much of the single market. The Brexit agreement also means that some cargo coming from mainland Britain needs to be checked before or on entry to ensure it meets EU standards.
The EU has been adamant that the deal cannot be renegotiated but has said it’s open to finding flexibilities within the agreement
A diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg suggests that both the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which is leading negotiations with the U.K., and most European governments want this to be the final attempt at reaching an agreement before any further action is taken, should the U.K. continue to not implement the protocol.
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