The European Commission and the British Government have resumed the negotiation on the application of the Brexit agreements in Northern Ireland after the Christmas break and, apparently, it seems that they have done so on the right foot. This Friday, in fact, Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Foreign Minister Liz Truss issued a joint statement, something unusual in recent months, about the first meeting between the two after the British took over these talks, which until last month was led by David Frost, resigned minister for Brexit from the Boris Johnson Executive. “The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. Both agreed that the technicians will meet next week in intense conversations, ”says the text.
With the departure of Frost from the Executive, this first meeting was expected with some expectation. Frost is one of the members of the British Conservative Party with the toughest and most ideological positions on Brexit, and his personality had strongly marked the negotiations due to his constant threats to resort to Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which involves the unilateral suspension of the agreement that both The parties signed the entire British Withdrawal Agreement from the EU, which regulates relations between London and Brussels, to go ahead. In Brussels it was expected that the new head of the negotiating team would maintain a more pragmatic position, but an article published days ago in the British press had reduced this hope. Finally, it seems that, at least in this first meeting, this new beginning allows us to see with some optimism the possibility of finding a way out of this matter.
The Protocol was an addition to the general agreements between the EU and London that made it possible to find a solution to the most thorny problem of Brexit, the lace of Ulster after the departure of the United Kingdom. This avoided the possibility of a physical border being built between the counties of Northern Ireland and the rest of the Island, putting at risk the delicate coexistence in that area between Catholics and Protestants and the Good Friday agreements of 1998, which put an end to terrorist violence between the two communities. But the application of this protocol, especially in freight traffic, created some daily problems that the Government of London used to renege on a pact that it had signed in November 2019 and demand that everything be renegotiated again.
This position has always been rejected by Brussels, which refuses to start over. The European Commission does not deny that the application of the protocol has brought about disruptions in the exchange of goods and for this reason it has offered to reduce many of the bureaucratic procedures necessary for the arrival of products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, since this area is now within the common market. But what he has flatly refused is to do without the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union, a London demand that Truss reiterated in his press article. Brussels’ argument is that it would mean the end of market unity.
So far, after three months of negotiations and the first deadline set before Christmas for the resolution of the conflict has elapsed, only enough progress has been made in the chapter on the arrival of medicines to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
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