Lord Frost has travelled to Brussels for talks on the Irish border
Brussels has warned the UK government that its Brexi trade deal is “intrinsically linked” to enforcing the Northern Ireland border protocol.
Ahead of crunch talks on Friday Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit chief said: “One cannot exist without the other”.
The comments raise the stakes because the UK has been threatening to suspend the Northen Ireland agreement, which it wants renegotiated on more favourable terms.
But Mr Sefcovic’s warning is a hint that Brussels and EU capitals might choose to suspend the separate trade deal between the UK and EU if Britain pulls the plug.
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement or TCA guarantees UK businesses effectively zero tariffs when trading with the EU – cushioning some of the self-inflicted economic blow of Brexit.
But on his way into talks in Brussels Lord Frost, the EU’s Brexit chief, defended the possibility of using Article 16 to suspend the protocol.
“明らかに, our preference is to see if we can find a negotiated agreement, but if we can’t, 論文 16 remains on the table,” he told reporters outside the venue.
彼が追加した: “There are a large number of issues that need to be fixed if we are going to resolve this problem. That’s obviously part of the discussion, but there are still really quite significant gaps between us.”
Lord Frost said the UK and EU had not “管理” to discuss the issue of the European Court of Justice “very much so far”. The UK wants the EU’s top court to have no role in overseeing disputes in the agreement, despite having signed up to it previously.
He told reporters: “I wouldn’t expect any breakthroughs on anything today. But there are some issues that we might make better progress on than others.”
The EU presented a package of measures to cut paperwork around the deal and also to reduce spot checks – but the UK says that the plan does not go far enough.
Loyalists and unionists are concerned that the protocol is disrupting trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The protocol was introduced to keep the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
Because Britain as a whole is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, trade checks would have been required over the Irish border if no solution was found.
Speaking via video link ahead of the talks, Mr Sefcovic told an event at the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University: “Settling the divorce has always been and remains a precondition for our future relationship.
“It was on this basis that we negotiated, concluded and ratified the trade and co-operation agreement on Christmas Eve last year.
“The two agreements are intrinsically linked, one cannot exist without the other.”