Northern Ireland protocol unlikely to be solved this year, Coveney says

Simon Coveney said serious gaps remained between the two sides on the Brexit protocol.
Northern Ireland protocol unlikely to be solved this year, Coveney says

Thomson Reuters

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he did not expect Britain and the European Union to resolve all the issues around their trade dispute by the end of this year, but said progress was being made.

Speaking at the Foreign Office in London following a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, Coveney said serious gaps remained between the two sides on the Northern Ireland protocol.

"There hasn't been a breakthrough moment in the last number of weeks, but I think there has been a deeper understanding of each other's positions," he said.

"Do I think that all issues can be resolved linked to the protocol by the end of the year? I think that's a very tall order and unlikely to happen."

The UK left the EU last year, but has since put off implementing some border checks between Northern Ireland and Britain that the bloc says London is obliged to apply under their divorce deal.

London says the checks are disproportionate and are heightening tensions in Northern Ireland, putting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement at risk. It has said it could trigger Article 16, an emergency brake on the Brexit trade deal.

Following months of increased rhetoric, Britain and the EU agreed last month to intensify efforts to solve the problem. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said at the same event that London would rather find a solution to the issues but could take unilateral action if needed.

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