// UK-EU talks on Northern Ireland Protocol have broken up without an agreement
// Brexit Minister Lord Frost says they have agreed to carry on talking in an effort to achieve a breakthrough
// It comes a day after the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group urged the EU & UK to find a solution to trade frictions
Talks between the UK and the EU on the implementation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Northern Ireland have broken up without an agreement.
Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic ended their discussions in London with no sign of a breakthrough.
Ahead of the talks Frost warned that time was running out to reach agreement and called on the EU to adopt a “common sense” approach to checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
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Sefcovic warned that Brussels would act “firmly and resolutely” if the UK unilaterally decided to delay checks intended to ensure there was no return to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Following three-and-a-half hours of talks, Frost said they had had a “frank and honest discussion” but that there had been “no breakthroughs” over the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement.
However, he said that the two sides had agreed to carry on talking in an effort to achieve a breakthrough.
“The problem we’ve got is the protocol is being implemented in a way which is causing disruption in Northern Ireland and we had some pretty frank and honest discussions about that situation today,” Frost said.
“There weren’t any breakthroughs. There aren’t any breakdowns either and we’re going to carry on talking.
“What we really now need to do is very urgently find some solutions which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland and allow things to return to normal.”
The news comes a day after the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group issued a statement pleading with the EU and UK government to find a solution to trade frictions.
Members of the working group include the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, Logistics UK, the Institute of Directors in the UK, and KPMG.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is a legal framework that aims to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland since the UK left the EU.
Although part of the UK, Northern Ireland has remained part of the EU goods market.
This means goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have required EU export documentation since the transition day at the start of this year.
An initial grace period of three months was agreed for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain where documentation was not required.
This grace period has since been extended to October.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group said: “We need to see that not only are we being heard and understood, but that both the UK and EU are willing to work together to deal with the impact of the protocol.
“We want to ensure that trading arrangements under the protocol can work to benefit business and communities across Northern Ireland, now and in the future.”
“In order to build confidence in the process, we need some quick wins that will de-dramatise the current situation in Northern Ireland and show communities that they are being heard; but we also need long term solutions designed and delivered in tandem business to keep trade flowing.
“There will be opportunities under the protocol, given the access it gives to both the UK and EU markets, and some businesses are already availing of those opportunities, but for our economy as a whole we need trade frictions to be removed and our key priorities of stability, certainty, simplicity and affordability to be delivered if we are to keep business competitive and keep costs down for families across NI.”
The spokesperson added: “For many businesses the Protocol has allowed trade flows to continue and, without it, farming and agri-food businesses, in particular, throughout Ireland would be much worse off financially, but we need the EU and UK Government to work with us – and with each other – to deliver on their commitments.
“We continue to make representations and put forward constructive solutions, so we now need a clear and unequivocal sign from both sides to show our efforts and faith have been warranted.”
with PA Wires