Sources in the European Union have categorically denied a report that it is possible to conduct checks on goods between the Republic and the rest of the bloc countries if Britain continues to not fully implement them in the Irish Sea.
A report in the Brussels-based outlet Politico Europe said a “contingency plan” was being discussed by EU officials and diplomats to introduce checks on goods from Ireland to the rest of the single market.
“Big load,” said one EU official when asked about the report.
An EU diplomat described the idea as a “low-level kite”.
“EU leaders are very simple: they will not allow the former colonialist to force Ireland out of the internal market,” the diplomat said. “Unity above all. Ireland will not be dropped. The UK will have to start implementing the deal.”
The report emerged as EU and UK officials met in London for talks amid an impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Talks broke off without a clear agreement.
The European Union accuses Britain of failing to implement basic aspects of a post-Brexit agreement to check some goods transported between Britain and Northern Ireland, opening a loophole in the single market side.
The British government accuses the European Union of being too strict in its interpretation of the rules, and that the application of some controls has become too politically sensitive due to union opposition.
The introduction of checks on trade between the Republic and the rest of the European Union to ensure protection of the single market, which would treat Ireland as if it had left the bloc as well as the United Kingdom, is a nightmare scenario that would hammer the Irish economy.
But the EU diplomat expressed confidence that the UK would have to back down.
“We have the market of the 27 as well as the global market so we have to be patient,” the diplomat said. “Just hope [DUP leader Edmund] Boots and [David] Frost doesn’t accidentally start a fire in their backyard first.”
Brexit Secretary Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic ended their discussions in London with no sign of a breakthrough.
Ahead of the talks, Lord Frost warned that time was running out for an agreement and called on the European Union to adopt a “common sense” approach to inspecting goods transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Sefcovic warned that Brussels would act “firmly and firmly” if the UK unilaterally decided to postpone inspections aimed at ensuring that the difficult border with the republic did not return.
Mr Frost said there had been “no breakthroughs” with the EU over implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, including on sausages and refrigerated meats, after “frank and honest” discussions.
After the three-and-a-half hours of talks in London, Mr Sefcovic told broadcasters: “The problem we have is that the protocol is being implemented in a way that is causing turmoil in Northern Ireland and we’ve had some frank and honest discussions about that situation today.”
At the Admiralty House on Whitehall, the Tory colleague said: “There haven’t been any breakouts. There aren’t any malfunctions either and we’ll keep talking.
“What we really need now is to find some very urgent solutions that support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the Northern Ireland peace process and allow things to return to normal.” Additional Reports PA
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