European Commission Vice-President Maros Sevkovic urged Britain on Sunday to take “significant steps” to break the months of impasse that has been a threat to the trade war due to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.
Sefcovic is scheduled to meet with Brexit Secretary David Frost in London on Friday for further negotiations. Previous negotiations with the United Kingdom broke down on Friday, saying there was “potential for momentum.”
But the UK hinted that it could still trigger the moratorium in the so-called Northern Ireland Agreement, which could trigger a destructive trade war and the dramatic collapse of relations after Brexit.
Brussels has repeatedly warned that this move will bring “serious consequences”, hinting that it may cancel the separate Brexit trade and cooperation agreement and impose tariffs.
Months of negotiations, proposals, and counter-proposals failed to break the deadlock. The United Kingdom called for a thorough reform of the agreement, while the European Union insisted that it would be sufficient to provide more moderate changes in the summer.
“I hope (the UK) will also take a big step towards us now, because we have indeed put forward far-reaching proposals and put them on the table,” Sevkovic told the BBC.
“I believe that if Lord Frost and (Britain) redouble their efforts and meet (us) halfway, we will be able to resolve all outstanding issues and satisfy the people of Northern Ireland.”
– ‘Solve the problem’ –
Before reaching a landmark peace agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland had experienced 30 years of violent conflict under British rule, but it proved to be tricky throughout the Brexit process.
The agreement calls for inspections of cargo entering the British province from the British mainland-England, Scotland and Wales-on the internal borders of the Irish Sea.
It aims to prevent inspections of goods entering the European single market at the border with the EU member state Ireland, which was a key part of the 1998 peace agreement.
The UK stated that the agreement would not work, while hard-line unionists in Northern Ireland said the agreement cut them off from the rest of the UK.
The European Union has proposed to reduce inspections of a series of cargoes destined for Northern Ireland, but it has drawn a line on the British proposal to abolish European judicial supervision of disputes.
Frost wrote in the Sunday Mail that the current problems with the agreement “touch the core of our territorial integrity, that is, what it means to be a country and a market.”
“I still hope that the EU can show the ambitions needed to resolve the problem through an agreement,” he added.
“If they can’t, of course we will have to maintain our position in other ways.”