European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic has accused the UK of “political posturing” and urged Brexit minister David Frost and his negotiating team to stop “bringing ... new problems to the table”.
With differences remaining on ways to solve issues relating to Northern Ireland, Mr Sefcovic said that “if there is a genuine problem” with the protocol, “we can find the solutions” – but said that the two sides would have to work together.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, Mr Sefcovic was asked why he could not accept proposals that goods which were not going to leave Northern Ireland should be treated in one way while goods that may cross into the Republic should be handled differently.
He said: “Would the UK accept not to have the overview of what’s coming to the UK market? Would they accept it? I don’t think so.
“And you just simply have to understand that, if something is coming to the EU single market, we have to have an overview.”
He said the EU had already proposed “gestures and solutions” from their side, but added: “We cannot undo the Brexit, especially the type as the UK has proposed it, negotiated it, and signed the agreement upon it with us.”
Also speaking on Sunday, the Irish foreign affairs minister said the UK and the EU negotiating teams needed space to continue working to solve the impasse on post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Simon Coveney said he believed both sides were now “serious” about trying to find solutions to some of the problems caused by the protocol.
“I think both are serious in terms of their engagement now with each other, to try and find a way forward on practical things that can reduce the impact of the protocol on the ground,” he said.
“I think now is a time to try to give space to the negotiators.”
The comments follow a demand from Brussels on Friday for the UK government to get a solution to problems to do with the Northern Ireland border “over the line”, after a fifth round of talks ended without a breakthrough.
Lord Frost has signalled that progress has been made in his talks with Mr Sefcovic, stating that there was now the “potential to generate some momentum in our discussions”.
The Tory peer, who negotiated the Northern Ireland protocol, has previously threatened to suspend the agreement by activating Article 16.
However, in recent weeks he has adopted a less combative tone, suggesting negotiators may be closer to reaching an agreement.
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