Monday, 10 May 2021

Brexit latest: Northern Ireland protocol talks ‘warm up’ in new breakthrough for UK and EU

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EU Brexit commissioner Maros Sefcovic and is UK counterpart David Frost may meet this week to review the technical talks between the two sides. Officials said days of intensive contacts had given cause for optimism that the UK and EU can craft a “work plan” on how to implement the protocol.

The mood seems to have warmed up a bit. The tone of the discussions is quite good

British official

An EU diplomat told the FT: “They are advancing on a technical level and probably we will see a Frost-Sefcovic meeting rather sooner than later.”

The diplomat said further progress would hinge on commitments from the UK and its “unequivocal support” for the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

A British official said: “The mood seems to have warmed up a bit. The tone of the discussions is quite good.”

The Brexit deal effectively placed a trade border down the Irish Sea to maintain frictionless commerce on the island of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland protocol requires customs and food safety checks for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The talks, which got underway after a new implementation plan was submitted by the UK last month, come against a backdrop of violence in Northern Ireland.

The trouble flared when simmering unionist resentment at how the protocol treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK boiled over.

Police said there had been eight consecutive nights of unrest in both unionist and nationalist areas since April 2.

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Downing Street has played reports it was resisting proposals by Dublin for a special crisis summit to address the violence.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “We have not refused anything. It’s something we will consider.”

Irish officials said taoiseach Micheál Martin and Boris Johnson have spoken and would “maintain close contact over coming days”.

North Area commander, Chief Superintendent Davy Beck, said: “The senseless disorder we saw unfold in a residential area in Coleraine has achieved nothing but leave people petrified in their homes.

“Such reckless criminal activity has only served to harm the local community by those who deliberately chose to engage in such disorder.

“Thankfully, none of our officers were injured as a result of the attacks, however some of our vehicles did sustain damage, and that damage is currently being assessed.

“I want to make a direct appeal to parents, guardians and community leaders to use their influence to ensure we do not see a repeat of such ugly scenes.

“This is not wanted by anyone and does not represent the local community who we know just want to live in peace.

“I want to reassure the community that we will continue to work to keep people safe and those who engaged in last night’s disorder should be warned that an investigation is under way and evidence gathered will now be reviewed and those identified will face the full rigour of the law.”

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Local SDLP MLA Cara Hunter said: “The last thing people in this community want is further disruption. I understand that tensions are running high but resorting to this kind of behaviour only damages local people and services.

“The crowd burning refuse, blocking roads and intimidating people in this community needs to stop. They need to go home and let people get on with their lives.

“This is a time for calm. Things don’t need to escalate. Young people don’t need to end up with criminal convictions. I’m appealing for everyone to exercise their influence to reduce tensions in our community.”

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