A senior British cabinet minister said on Friday that the government is “confident” to negotiate with the European Union on the trade status of Northern Ireland after Brexit without having to fall out with Brussels.
Michael Gove’s remarks came as the European Union and the United Kingdom both reported progress after a week of “constructive” negotiations in Brussels on how to resolve the long-standing dispute over the so-called Northern Ireland Agreement.
When Gove, the secretary of state responsible for housing and upgrades and the former negotiator for Brexit, said that he did not think the United Kingdom would have to trigger the Article 16 mechanism to suspend part of the agreement, the prospect of reaching an agreement was raised.
Gove is one of many cabinet ministers Eager to avoid A potential trade war with the European Union on this issue; Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has also warned of the economic consequences of such disputes.
“I do believe that the government is taking a constructive approach [European] Committee,” Gove said at the British-Irish committee meeting in Dublin.
Gove stated that although Lord David Frost, the Brexit minister, has expressed his willingness to use Article 16, “we believe that without it, we will be able to make progress.” In Brussels, Gove is seen as a more constructive negotiating partner than Frost.
Frost was instructed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to push for another negotiation to reach an agreement on Christmas Eve; combative language has been replaced by a more moderate tone.
Frost met with Committee Vice Chairman Maros Šef?ovi? in Brussels on Friday to review the latest negotiations on the agreement, which is part of the Brexit agreement to maintain open borders on the island of Ireland.
It does this by allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the European Union’s single goods market, but this requires inspection of goods that cross the Irish Sea between the UK and the region. The Brexit minister argued that the inspections requested by Brussels were excessive.
Frost said on Friday that although the two sides still have “major differences” on most issues, the latest round of talks was “intensive and constructive.”
He said that in the event that an agreement could not be reached through negotiation, Article 16 was still the “legal” recourse of the British government, but he added that he wanted to “ensure a consensus-based solution”.
Shevcovic said that sufficient progress had been made in the negotiations, but called for “transition to a result-oriented model.” He added: “Recent changes in the tone now lead to the crucial importance of joint practical solutions within the framework of the agreement,” he said.
He said that in reducing customs control by half, there has been “a useful participation in the technical level.” The biggest gap remains the inspection of agricultural products. Sevkovic called on Britain to “take clear action against us.”
“Compared with the checks currently required, the identification and physical checks will be reduced by about 80%,” he said.
However, the United Kingdom disputed this figure and was cautious about allowing the EU to monitor production standards, which was a condition of exchange for the transaction. London is also promoting the free movement of pets in the Irish Sea.
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