UK Says Breakthrough on Northern Ireland Protocol Needed Early Next Year
© AP Photo / Peter MorrisonFILE - In this Wednesday Oct. 16, 2019 file photo motorists pass along the old Belfast to Dublin road close to the Irish border in Newry, Northern Ireland
© AP Photo / Peter Morrison
LONDON (Sputnik) – UK Brexit minister David Frost voiced his disappointment with the lack of progress in the negotiations with the EU over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol and said a solution is "urgently" needed early next year or else the UK could trigger the article allowing one of the parties to temporarily abandon commitments.
"It is disappointing that it has not been possible to reach either a comprehensive or worthwhile interim agreement this year. A solution needs to be found urgently early next year," Frost said in a statement issued at the end of this week's round of talks.
"For as long as there is no agreed solution, we remain ready to use the Article 16 safeguard mechanism if that is the only way to protect the prosperity and stability of Northern Ireland and its people," he added.
As part of the Brexit agreement that came into force in January, there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but under the protocol all goods and animal-based products coming from the rest of the British territories must be checked upon arrival to see if they comply with EU sanitary regulations.
The UK government has argued that the protocol is not working, as it causes delays and interruptions to goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and irritates loyalists to the British crown who believe their place within the union could be affected, thus threatening the so-called Good Friday Agreement that in 1998 put an end to 30 years of armed conflicts.
In October, the EU offered to cut checks on food, plants and animal products by 80% and paperwork for transport companies by half, but London is pushing for renegotiating the whole protocol.
"The proposals made by the EU in October constituted a step forward but, based on what we have heard to date, our expert analysis does not support the ambitious public claims made for them. Overall, it is not possible to envisage an agreed solution which does not deliver significant change in this area," Frost said.
He said that the main area of progress in the talks due to be resumed next year has been on medicine supply to Northern Ireland.