This week, Boris Johnson’s government launched a negotiation with the EU on the post-Brexit trade relationship in Northern Ireland, as the prime minister tries to end the toxic dispute.
A senior British official on Friday Briefing of EU journalists based in London that Johnson is no longer seeking immediate punishment by the European Court of Justice from its role in enforcing the so-called Northern Ireland protocol.
In a move described as “an important change”, the UK official said “nobody demonstrated on the streets of Belfast” to protest the ECJ’s role.
The protocol is part of the UK’s Brexit agreement to maintain an open border in Ireland. In turn, there should be some examination of east-west trade across the Irish Sea.
Although Johnson wants to address the “governance” of the protocol in the long run, EU journalists have been told that the Prime Minister wants to focus on ensuring the smooth flow of goods between the UK and the UK. Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea.
“If the negotiations fail, it will not be because the UK insists on taking the ECJ out of protocol,” the official said, adding that London accepts that the European Commission has no mandate from the EU. member states to discuss removing the court from the agreement.
According to journalists at the meeting, they were summoned specifically to report a “change” in the British government’s thinking – an olive branch that could help broker a deal with Brussels.
But when accounts of the meeting began to emerge, Downing Street tried desperately to articulate what was said, lest it sabotage. Brexit Secretary Lord David Frost’s negotiating position.
“This is an inaccurate feature of our position,” said a government spokesman. Any permanent solution must address the full range of difficulties created by the protocol, including on ECJ.”
Despite that statement, the official meeting of a group of EU journalists showed that Johnson wanted to “stop” the ECJ issue to secure a breakthrough in other areas.
Both sides have been discussing for weeks about significantly reducing the inspection of goods at Irish Sea ports, including medicine, animals and food, and reducing customs checks.
The European Commission on Saturday said the UK had granted 23 permits to French fishing boats, in a further sign of de-escalating tensions.
“Today, the UK issued 18 permits for EU vessels to substitute in UK territorial waters and five permits for EU vessels to access Jersey waters,” the commission said in a statement. statement. “Technical consultations will continue with the aim of having seven more licensed replacement vessels by the end of Monday.”
While the committee described the move as an “important step” towards the full implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, it noted that “a number” of vessels were seeking access to UK waters. The UK was not licensed.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Throughout this process, the UK’s approach is evidence-based and in line with our commitments under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. We have vessels licensed when sufficient evidence is provided that the vessel qualifies for access under the TCA. ”
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Additional reporting by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe