DUBLIN (Reuters) – The European Commission will finalise measures next week it believes can lead to a resolution of post-Brexit trading issues in Northern Ireland by the end of the year or early in 2022, the top EU official dealing with the matter said on Thursday.
Since Britain left the EU’s single market this year, difficulties in sending some goods to British-run Northern Ireland has prompted London to repeatedly call for widespread changes to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic reiterated that he would not renegotiate the protocol and that solutions would have to be found within the terms of a deal designed to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.
“From our perspective this would be really a very far reaching proposal and I sincerely hope that this will be seen as such by our UK counterparts,” Sefcovic said, referring to the package of measures he hoped to finalise by the middle of next week.
“I think we will have very intense talks throughout the rest of October and November and I think it’s in the best interest of both of us that we will try to find a reasonable solution before the end of the year, early next year.”
The new rules have given rise to increased trade across the open border with Ireland as some Northern Irish firms switch suppliers. Britain has also postponed implementing some of the more onerous checks between it and Northern Ireland.
Sefcovic, who oversees post-Brexit relations with Britain, said the EU would be willing to look “creatively” at customs checks with more co-operation from London and his proposals would also seek to find long-term solutions on food and plant safety, and the supply of medicines from Britain.
Britain again said on Monday it would trigger safeguard measures in the divorce deal if the bloc failed to agree to major changes, saying the agreement had “come apart even more quickly than we feared”.
Sefcovic said the repeated statements by British politicians that they may trigger Article 16 of the protocol have not been helpful and it was clear that there are no quick, easy-fix solutions to “an extremely complex situation.”
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Alex Richardson and Raissa Kasolowsky)