Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, has increased expectations of a settlement in the Northern Ireland trade dispute with the EU but has cautioned that significant gaps remain.
Boris Johnson’s senior negotiator said there is a possibility for progress and praised yesterday’s “intensive and constructive talks.”
“There is the potential to generate some momentum in our discussions,” Lord Frost said after meeting European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels.
“In this context, I welcome the vice president’s acknowledgement that the protocol had led to unintended consequences in Northern Ireland. Addressing these continues to be the urgent task before us.”
Brussels applauded the UK government’s “change in tone.”
“We now need to press on and get this crucial issue across the line,” the EU added.
“This is a real test of political goodwill. The EU, for its part, is confident that our proposed solution, addressing all concerns raised by industry, would bring much needed clarity and foster a positive political momentum.”
According to the report, discussions should “aim to significantly reduce, not to eliminate, customs processes”.
Michael Gove, a Cabinet minister, previously said that progress might be achieved without invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“While, of course, it’s always possible that Article 16 may require to be invoked, we’re confident that we’ll be able to make progress without it,” he said at the British-Irish Council meeting in Cardiff.
Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, said that there is “a genuine desire” to overcome the protocol conflict.