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EU insists on open talk on Northern Ireland trade, without pre-set result

EU says no justification for UK to change Brexit pact on N.Ireland
EU says no justification for UK to change Brexit pact on N.Ireland Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
Published on Updated
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BRUSSELS - The European Commission is willing to negotiate trading arrangements for Northern Ireland with Britain, but only if talks are constructive and do not restart with an outcome set by London, a top EU official said on Wednesday.

"Our doors are open for negotiations but it has to be constructive negotiations and it cannot be done in a way that we negotiate but the result is given in advance," Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic told a news conference in Brussels.

Sefcovic is due to deliver a speech in London later on Wednesday, two days after legislation allowing Britain to scrap some of the rules on post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade passed the first of many parliamentary tests.

"The result as it was presented in the bill is completely unacceptable to the European Union because it simply breaches international law and the most important agreement we have signed just two years ago," Sefcovic said.

He said his message in London would be that the Commission's proposals to reduce customs documentation and checks for goods travelling from Britain to its province Northern Ireland brought stability and legal certainty.

They would also prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, which has been avoided by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods.

The fix, agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal, means goods can flow with ease from there to Ireland, but effectively place a border in the Irish Sea between the British mainland and its province, which has angered some pro-British unionists.

London accuses Brussels of applying the rules on goods trade in a heavy-handed way.

Sefcovic said fleshed-out solutions to the difficulties were "on the table", but needed political will from Britain to move forward.

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