TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic met in London this Monday. After months of disagreements, for the first time, the two sides issued a joint statement which, while asserting that there are still “many key issues to be resolved to find a way forward”, emphasizes that the agreement reached this Monday was “a fundamental condition building mutual trust, offering security guarantees and the opportunity to create a new basis for restarting discussions between the EU and the UK. Despite the fact that the UK officially left the bloc in January 2020, negotiations between the two sides are still ongoing due to the controversy over new Northern Ireland customs controls. After the ‘divorce’, the British province was given a different status from the rest of the UK, making goods coming from the UK (Scotland, England and Wales) need to be checked to protect the single market as Northern Ireland remains part of the EU. Meanwhile, members of the Democratic Unionist Party believe that the new bureaucracy is hurting the British provincial economy, so they refuse to form a coalition government in Belfast until London negotiates a different solution with Brussels. The Northern Irish have been without a government since February last year, increasing tensions between Catholics and Protestants, threatening the peace sealed by the Good Friday Agreement, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in April. At one time, Boris Johnson’s government – the same government that left Northern Ireland with a different status from the rest of the UK – threatened to unilaterally break the deal with the EU. But new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has chosen a more conciliatory tone, keen to avoid a trade war at a time when Britain’s economy is at a critical juncture with inflation soaring above 10 per cent. and public debt, which is approaching 100 percent. GDP. The EU has always demanded direct and timely access to customs information on all goods moving from the UK to Northern Ireland. So far, London has resisted imposing customs declaration and phytosanitary inspections on companies moving their goods between the two islands. But Sunak, who despite being a declared Eurosceptic is above all a pragmatic politician, wants to rectify the situation. By developing a digital information system for goods in circulation and allowing Brussels to access its content, London is sending a double message that the EU welcomed: any solution must respect the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the protection of the Good Friday Agreements as well as the integrity of the EU’s internal market. Now, technical teams from London and Brussels are to work on finding potential solutions in various areas on the basis of this new agreement, with the results of their work to be presented at a meeting scheduled for January 16. The head of British diplomacy commented on the results of the talks on Twitter as follows: “Today’s progress on data is a positive step in the talks on the Northern Ireland protocol” (which is a major stumbling block in defining the relationship between the two sides after the UK leaves the EU). In December last year, after extending the exception guaranteeing the supply of veterinary products from Great Britain until the end of 2025, the European Commission decided that there was a chance to close the agreement with London on the protocol. According to Brussels, negotiations have improved since Rishi Sunak took office as Prime Minister and both sides have committed to improving their work.
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