By Peter McLaren-Kennedy •
Updated: 06 Feb 2023 • 18:32
Northern Ireland border - Image Jonny McCullagh / Shutterstock.com
The Guardian is reporting that the two sides are close to an agreement on food and animal health checks, with the use of coloured lanes to distinguish the destination for goods coming through the ports. It is understood this involves lesser checks for goods coming from the UK into Northern Ireland although it is unclear what these might be.
It is understood that goods destined for Northern Ireland would still need to meet EU standards, to ensure that goods don´t slip through. But difficulties are said to still remain including the role of the European Court of Justice in the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.
The positive news is giving hope that a deal can be done with European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič saying that the said the two sides were working closely and more constructively.
He said: “Progress is being made, but difficulties remain” adding that: “For us it is very clear equation: more and stronger safeguards we can get, more flexibility we can explore.”
Speaking at a press conference today Wednesday, February 1, von der Leyen said that no deal had yet been reached with the end result only known once all the details have been agreed.
She said: “You know the principle: that everything is only negotiated at the very end when you know what the result is and you give a final signature.”
According to France 24 she said a deal had all but been agreed upon after she spoke of the good relationship that she has with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. She added that: “our teams are working together to find solutions” on the issue.
Although technical discussions have gone on for months, the combative approach from the UK and the threat of unilateral action yielded few results. With the third anniversary of the deal signed by Boris Johnson that put a border between the UK and Northern Ireland, all parties are keen to bring an end to differences and to resolve the issues without endangering the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to the region.
Von der Leyen has refused to be drawn on how close to the two parties are to a deal but the recent intervention of more senior staff would suggest that the two parties are close to a deal.
She said: “I cannot give partial elements because you never know until the very end how the package looks like, but as I said, these are very constructive talks.”
The main differences between the two sides is the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing the deal, and the relaxation of border controls between the UK and Northern Ireland.
If indeed a breakthrough on Northern Ireland is near, it will be a positive sign that relationships strained over BREXIT have begun to improve.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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