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A meeting between the UK Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost and VP of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations Maros Sefcovic is underway in London, with the intention of de-escalating the heightened tensions surrounding the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

  • The latest spike in tensions comes as the UK gov't noted that it would likely unilaterally extend the customs check grace period on imports of chilled meat products from GB to NI, for which the EU has threatened to retaliate.
  • There seems precious little prospect of any concrete progress, and in fact there appears to be a greater prospect that the talks go poorly resulting in the ill-will over the NI customs checks limiting agreement on other less contentious issues of discussion.
  • The political situation in Northern Ireland has become increasingly febrile, with new DUP leader Edwin Poots and his nominee for first minister Paul Givan both staunchly opposed to any customs checks between GB and NI as specified in the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • The meeting is expected to conclude around midday, with Sefcovic holding a press conference at 1230BST (0730ET, 1330CET), which will be available afterwards on the EU's broadcasting service. Frost is expected to release a pool clip.
  • The EU continues to threaten legal action against the UK for non-compliance and the subject is likely to figure heavily in the G7 summit taking place in Cornwall, England from 11-13 June. EU member state leaders and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen likely to try to get US President Joe Biden to exert pressure on the UK. Meanwhile, PM Boris Johnson and his team will be looking to 'set the record straight' from their point of view with regards to the EU's 'inflexibility' on reaching a compromise.

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