In a statement to a British parliamentary committee, Britain’s Europe minister James Cleverly said, London and Brussels are at an impasse over changes to parts of the Brexit deal that relate to Northern Ireland.
Both sides have been trying to overcome this hurdle since months, which sets trading rules for Northern Ireland, with London now saying the rules it had agreed to are unworkable.
The Brexit deal negotiated by Britain effectively left Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market and customs union and left an open border with Ireland, an EU member, and in doing so raised some trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
“We have come to something of an impasse, and I don’t think that’s through a lack of goodwill, and I think it’s more through what we regard in the UK as an overly limited (EU) negotiating mandate,” said Cleverly.
After prolonged Brexit negotiations, the British government has now come to the conclusion that the Brexit deal, in its current form, is causing trade friction between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Previously, Britain has argued that it has grounds to trigger a clause in the Brexit deal which allows it to abandon parts of the treaty – a move that will significantly damage its fragile economic and diplomatic relations with the EU.
On Thursday, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the region’s largest pro-British party, had urged London to act unilaterally if talks on overhauling the protocol are “not rapidly completed”.
According to Jeffrey Donaldson, “the protocol must be replaced and not tinkered with around the edges. A new government will not be formed in Northern Ireland after May 5 elections until it is sorted”.
Incidentally, a large majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU during the 2016 referendum.