May 27. 2024. 9:17

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EU and UK making progress in NI protocol talks, says commission

Talks between the European Union and United Kingdom are making progress to solve a standoff over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements, the vice-president of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, said on Monday.

“We are getting there,” Mr Sefcovic told journalists after he updated European affairs ministers from the 27 member states, saying a newly “trusting” relationship between EU leads and the new government of British prime minister Rishi Sunak had helped unlock progress.

“Progress is being made but difficulties remain,” he continued, saying that the focus was on “gradual, incremental work” to find a solution to the protocol issue, a point of contention between the UK and EU since the Brexit negotiations concluded.

Mr Sefcovic was asked about reports that the EU had accepted British proposals for so-called “red and green lanes” on goods into Northern Ireland, which would distinguish between products intended to remain in the jurisdiction and those destined for the broader single market.

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“We’ve been proposing so-called express lanes for the goods which are to stay in Northern Ireland which have no risk at making it to the EU single market,” he said.

“We do not insist on the precise names, we just want to make sure that the system would work.”

Talks were taking place in a “very cordial atmosphere”, he said, noting that “the more and stronger safeguards we can get [for the single market], the more flexibility we can explore”.