Brexit deal ‘unattainable’ unless UK bows to EUs ONE sticking point

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The EU last month offered a series of changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, including the removal of up to 80 percent of checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. The UK Government is seeing further alterations but it appears one key detail may be the difference between a deal and the continued standoff.

The bloc has said it is prepared to improve its offer amid the ongoing post-Brexit row with Britain over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The EU said it will cut customs checks in a bid to secure a new Brexit agreement for the province.

But European officials have been keen to stress they are unwilling to negotiate in one key area: the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

This final sticking point has prompted much speculation the UK could soon invoke Article 16.

The Irish Minister for European affairs Thomas Byrne has said a “tough guy” approach to talks when it comes to Northern Ireland will lead to “disaster”.

Talks are due to continue between the EU and UK in Brussels from today.

The European Commission said Britain’s insistence on ending oversight of the CJEU for EU law in Northern Ireland made it difficult to reach a solution.

The Commission urged London to move its position.

A Commission official told Politico: “Indeed, there is a question from our perspective which is how meaningful can the talks about [Northern Ireland trade issues] be if we will, in any case, fail to find an overall solution because of UK insistence on the governance question.”

The official argued Brussels has already made major steps in negotiations between the UK and EU.

They added last month’s proposals for facilitating Northern Ireland trade, which now “needs to be reciprocated by an equivalent step by the UK” regarding the CJEU.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and his British counterpart Lord David Frost will meet on Friday, for the fourth consecutive week, to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The meeting will take place after Mr Sefcovic today warns a deal will not be possible, unless the UK drops its “unattainable demands” concerning the role of European judges.

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The Commission Vice-President said he is growing increasingly frustrated at Britain’s unwillingness to engage with his proposals and budge on key factors of the agreement.

Proposals put forward by Mr Sefcovic include removing the need for up to 50 percent of checks on goods and 80 percent of checks on animal and plant health reasons.

The Commission Vice-President will likely improve on the current offer, according to The Telegraph, if Lord Frost agrees to shelve his plans and discuss the bloc’s proposal to cut border controls on British goods sent to Northern Ireland.

A European source told the Telegraph: “We’ve moved and it’s time for the UK to as well.

“The percentage of controls removed could yet increase, through negotiation.”

Lord Frost is calling for the bloc and current treaty to be entirely overhauled.

He is requesting the Luxembourg-based court’s oversight role in managing disagreements on the protocol be removed.

The former Brexit minister said this must be undertaken to resolve the ongoing stand-off.

Lord Frost sought to calm tensions on Thursday by insisting the Government wants a deal and does not want to trigger Article 16, which is considered to be the nuclear option.

But Brussels has repeatedly ruled out undertaking a wholesale renegotiation of the Protocol, insisting the Court’s powers are non-negotiable because Northern Ireland has access to the EU Single Market.

A senior Commission official told the Telegraph the major steps the EU has taken need “to be reciprocated”.

The insider added: “On the question of governance and the Court of Justice, we have always made clear that we thought that the objectives set out by the UK are unattainable.”

Although many claim an agreement is close and indeed possible, this final issue of the CJEU could be the make or break of any potential deal.

The Commission believes it has made enough concessions and therefore on this final sticking point, Britain must be the one to make the ultimate compromise.

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