Britain and the European Union held “constructive” technical discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol, but substantial gaps remain on the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), according to a British government source.

“The talks this week were constructive and we’ve heard some things from the EU that we can work with – but the reality is that we are still far apart on the big issues, especially governance,” the source said on Saturday night.

“There’s been plenty of speculation about governance this week but our position remains unchanged: the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end,” it said.

British officials said solutions must be found quickly because disruption on the ground in Northern Ireland has not gone away and cannot be endured for much longer, citing reports that because of the protocol, supplies of Christmas crackers are being prevented from reaching Northern Ireland, Xinhua news agency reported.

British officials have made clear this is “yet another practical example” of why the Protocol isn’t working and why we need “common sense solutions” that reduce disruption to people’s everyday lives.

After their first round of technical talks in Brussels, an EU negotiating team will travel to London on Tuesday for several days of intensive discussions. British Brexit Minister David Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic are due to meet in person in London for talks at the end of the week to take stock and assess progress so far.

Britain and the EU are getting back around the table to find a long-term solution to their post-Brexit trade dispute with Northern Ireland at the center.

They will aim to smooth trade through technical changes but also tackle the more challenging problem of the oversight role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland, on which both sides are far apart.



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