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MNI (Brussels)

The European Union would be ready to discuss an early warning system to limit the possibility of the European Court of Justice becoming involved in any disputes with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol, European officials told MNI, though they stressed that the two sides remained far apart on customs and governance issues

While relations between the two sides have improved following the departure of UK Brexit Minister David Frost and his replacement by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, officials said European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic is likely to warn EU ambassadors in a briefing on Thursday of difficult moments in the coming months as talks move onto customs processes and Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures.

Sefcovic will meet with Truss again on Monday while technical level talks between the two sides are still ongoing.

ROLE OF ECJ

The other big obstacle in talks remains the role of the European Court of Justice. Although the UK seems ready to accept some role for the court in addressing questions of EU law and the application of the Protocol, it is not ready to accept its role of final arbiter in EU-UK disputes.

Officials said, however, that the EU may be ready to discuss an information-sharing arrangement, a kind of early warning system which would avoid the launch of legal proceedings in the event of any UK infringement of the protocol.

UK officials have indicated they might agree to a system such as that provided for Switzerland, under which the ECJ’s role would be constrained to interpretation of European law. But the EU argues that the two situations are very different, given Northern Ireland’s full membership of the EU Single Market.

In May, campaigns begin for elections in Northern Ireland, and both sides fear that a failure to achieve substantial progress by then could make it more likely the UK could trigger Article 16 to suspend the Protocol.

MNI Brussels Bureau | david.thomas.ext@marketnews.com
MNI Brussels Bureau | david.thomas.ext@marketnews.com

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