EU, Britain vow to resolve N Ireland border row

Photo: EPA Michael Gove and Maros Sefcovic.

The EU and Britain reiterated on Thursday their commitment to resolve post-Brexit trade frictions over the Northern Ireland border, news wires reported. Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and British minister Michael Gove released a joint statement after they met in London, saying they had “a frank but constructive discussion”.

They added the two sides would “spare no effort” to implement solutions under the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, but did not provide details. The dispute revolves around the EU’s insistence on Britain honouring its withdrawal treaty which left the British province of Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market sphere due to its open land border with Ireland, meaning a customs border in the Irish Sea dividing the province from mainland Britain.

Last month Gove threatened that London would consider “all instruments at its disposal” if it did not secure the necessary concessions on Northern Ireland. On the eve of the talks, Sefcovic had ruled out most of the concessions that Britain had asked for, saying in a letter to Gove that “blanket derogations ... cannot be agreed beyond what the Protocol foresees already.”

Sefcovic, who had said on his way to the talks that the implementation of the protocol is a “two-way street”, said the talks were constructive. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter it was “good day’s work”.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, whose country has been central to the talks, had summoned both sides to “dial down the rhetoric.” “We just need to calm it, because ultimately we want the United Kingdom aligning well with the European Union. We want harmonious, sensible relationships,” he told RTE radio.

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