Brexit minister reiterates belief that NI Protocol is 'unsustainable' – BBC News

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Lord Frost

Reuters

The UK’s Brexit Minister has reiterated his belief that the NI Protocol is unsustainable in its current form.

Lord Frost was speaking after meeting business leaders in NI.

UK and EU officials are engaged in intensive technical talks aimed at simplifying the operation of the protocol.

A “stock-taking” meeting involving Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic could take place next week.

However it is understood that the technical talks have made limited progress.

They are covering around 30 issues ranging from VAT on used cars, to pet travel and the movement of food products from GB to NI.

Protest

UK officials believe that viable solutions are in sight for perhaps two issues, with partial solutions possible in maybe half a dozen other areas.

But the two sides are still far apart on the majority of issues, particularly the possibility of an agri-food agreement.

The protocol is the part of the Brexit deal that creates a trade border in the Irish Sea in order to prevent a hardening of the Irish land border.

It was agreed by the UK and EU in October 2019 and was subject to further negotiation and agreement in 2020.

It keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods and means EU customs rules are enforced at its ports.

Brexit checks

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Food products are subject to the most onerous checks and controls.

At the weekend Mr Sefcovic suggested a temporary Swiss-style veterinary agreement as a solution for Northern Ireland, where the UK would continues to follow all EU agri-food rules.

He said such a deal could be done in weeks and would remove 80% of GB to NI checks.

The UK has rejected that and is instead pushing for an equivalence arrangement in which the EU would recognise UK food production standards as being equivalent to its own.

The EU has limited equivalence agreements with New Zealand and Canada.

These mean that some products have minimal physical checks but still require export health paperwork.

There is no specific deadline for the talks but Lord Frost has previously suggested they will need to make progress by the middle of July.