Boris urged to ignore EU ‘bluster’ after trade punishment warning – Bloc ‘losing patience’
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Brexit minister Lord Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic held talks for more than three hours in London today and failed to make a breakthrough on the post-Brexit trade dispute in Northern Ireland. Mr Sefcovic fired a number of warning shots at London and insisted his patience with the UK was wearing “very, very thin”.
The EU chief also confirmed the bloc would “assess all options” against the UK, such as legal action, arbitration and cross retaliation, which includes imposing tariffs.
Lord Frost said the pair held a “frank and honest” discussion and insisted the bloc wants the UK to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol in an “extremely purist way”.
Conservative peer Lord Moylan said he believes the Prime Minister will not cave into the demands of the EU and will have the support of the majority of the nation.
Reacting to the comments made by Mr Sefcovic, Lord Moylan tweeted: “I don’t think Boris Johnson will give in to this bluster and he will be backed by the great bulk of the British population.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and protect the Good Friday Agreement.
The mechanism has tied Belfast to the EU single market and effectively divided the UK with trade border down the Irish Sea.
The UK has taken unilateral action to extend the grace periods on checks at the ports and the EU has called on the UK Government to make a U-turn.
The tense meeting in London also comes amid reports the UK could further extend the grace period on chilled meets, which are due to expire at the end of the month, something Lord Frost refused to rule out.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Sefcovic said the EU has shown “enormous patience” in the face of “numerous and fundamental gaps” in the UK’s adherence to the Protocol.
He said: “As you know, we always prefer the negotiations, we always prefer finding the good solutions, and the EU demonstrated that we can do that.
“Of course as you would understand, the fact that I mentioned that we are at a crossroads, means that our patience really is wearing very, very thin, and therefore we have to assess all options we have at our disposal.
“I was talking about the legal action, I was talking about arbitration, and of course I’m talking about the cross-retaliation.
“We do not want this to happen, therefore I came here, therefore we had a very intense debate this morning, and also yesterday evening with Lord Frost because I believe that there are possible solutions.”
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Lord Frost said: “There weren’t any breakthroughs. There aren’t any breakdowns either and we’re going to carry on talking.”
The UK Brexit chief called on the bloc to find urgent solutions and said Britain would explore all options.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister reiterated he was “very optimistic” the situation could be resolved and it was “easily doable”.
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