UK Brexit Minister David Frost said that three weeks’ talks with the European Union (EU) have not led to the closure of substantial gaps on the Northern Ireland Protocol but Britain will not give up until exhausting all negotiating possibilities.
During the intense discussions for the last three weeks, the aim has been to assess whether it is possible to close the substantial gaps in UK-EU positions and secure potential negotiated resolution, Frost said in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament, reports Xinhua news agency.
He said it has not been possible so far at least in part because the EU proposals do not go far enough to make the protocol sustainable for the future.
He said he wants to protect the integrity of the talks and remain positive.
“I will not give up on this process unless and until it is abundantly clear that nothing more can be done… If we do in due course reach that point, the Article 16 safeguards will be our only option,” Frost said.
The Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol provides both the UK and the EU with a unilateral power to take action should the application of the protocol give rise to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade”.
The UK and the EU view changing the protocol as a long-term solution to post-Brexit trade disruption in Northern Ireland. Britain outlined its proposals in a government paper in July, which observers interpreted as a renegotiation of the protocol.
In response, the EU published its own package to facilitate the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, including cutting customs formalities, simplified certification, and an 80 per cent reduction of checks on retail goods for Northern Ireland’s consumers.
It said it would guarantee an uninterrupted supply of medicine to the people of Northern Ireland, by changing EU rules.
However, the two sides remain poles apart on the more challenging issue of the oversight role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.