New year, same row: UK, EU resume Brexit trade talks

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Britain’s and EU’s top negotiators meet in hopes of resolving thorny trade dispute with Northern Ireland

LONDON – British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called on Britain and the European Union to rebuild relations, as she and the senior Brexit official met on Thursday for talks on a thorny dispute over trade with Northern Ireland.

Truss and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic were meeting at Chevening House, the foreign minister’s official retreat in the south-east of England.

Truss urged the EU to show a “pragmatic approach” to resolving the issues that have plagued relations since Britain left the 27-nation bloc last year.

“As staunch supporters of freedom and democracy, we should be able to come to an agreement that benefits Northern Ireland and allows us to unleash the full potential of our relationship,” she said. declared.

Sefcovic has said he wants “stability” and “predictability” for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member and where feuds over post rules are focused. -Brexit.

As part of the divorce deal, the two sides agreed to keep Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market without EU tariffs for goods in order to keep an open border on the island. of Ireland – a key pillar of the Northern Ireland peace process.

This created a new customs border in the Irish Sea for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, even though they are part of the same country. The deal has created red tape and supply problems for some companies, and has angered British Unionists in Northern Ireland, who say the controls are undermining Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. United and destabilize the delicate political balance on which peace rests.

Truss was appointed Britain’s chief negotiator for the EU last month after Brexit Minister David Frost left, citing disillusionment with the Conservative government’s policies on issues such as taxation and COVID- 19.

Brexit negotiations have made limited progress under Frost, seen by many European officials as a supporter of the uncompromising hard line. Truss adopted a warmer tone and welcomed Sefcovic with an all-British dinner of Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kentish apple pie.

But so far, Truss has stuck to Britain’s insistence that the EU remove its highest court from its role in resolving any disputes over the Brexit deal – an idea that the bloc categorically rejects.

The UK is seeking major changes to the provisions and has threatened to use an emergency break clause to suspend parts of the legally binding Brexit divorce deal if no solution is found. This would trigger retaliation from the EU and could escalate into a trade war between the UK and the 27-nation bloc.

The EU accuses Britain of failing to respond positively to its “far-reaching proposals” to ease the burden on Northern Irish businesses.

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Follow all of AP’s stories on post-Brexit developments at https://apnews.com/hub/Brexit.

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