London, Nov 18 : The UK’s Brexit Minister David Frost said that the country and the European Union (EU) are likely to reach a deal on changes to the disputed Northern Ireland Protocol by Christmas.
“I think it can be done, whether it will be done is a different question,” Xinhua news agency quoted Frost as saying to the BBC, after Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the issues with the protocol could be resolved “before Christmas”.
“I would like to progress this as fast as we possibly can, I’m glad there’s ambition on the EU side from what Simon says,” Frost was quoted by the BBC as saying.
The question of how goods move from Britain into Northern Ireland is obviously at the heart of the talks and there is no reason why goods going to stay in Northern Ireland need to go through processes, Frost said.
As part of the Brexit deal, the Protocol stipulates that Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market and customs union to avoid a hard border between the region and the Republic of Ireland.
However, this leads to a new “regulatory” border between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Britain and the EU view changing the protocol as a long-term solution to post-Brexit trade disruption in Northern Ireland.
Britain outlined its proposals in a government paper in July, which observers interpreted as an intention to renegotiate the protocol.
In response, the EU published its own package to facilitate the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, including cutting customs formalities, simplified certification, and an 80 per cent reduction of checks on retail goods for Northern Ireland’s consumers.
It said it would guarantee an uninterrupted supply of medicine to the people of Northern Ireland, by changing EU rules.
However, the two sides remain poles apart on the more challenging issue of the oversight role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.