By Dominic McGrath, PA
Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to work together to find a solution to the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In a call on Thursday, the British prime minister and the European Commission president discussed the post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland, as well as the war in Ukraine.
There have been hopes that improved relations between London and Brussels in recent months could prompt a breakthrough on the protocol impasse, which has dominated relations between the UK and the EU for months.
The row has also caused major political turbulence in Northern Ireland, with the DUP blocking a return to powersharing at Stormont due to its opposition to the protocol.
It claims the protocol has undermined Northern Ireland’s place within the UK by creating economic barriers on trade entering the region from Great Britain.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “On the Northern Ireland Protocol, they agreed on the importance of working together to agree a solution.”
🗣️@BCCShevaun: "Businesses want political leaders on both sides to move on from the debates of the past and find ways to trade more freely. Otherwise the long-term competitiveness of the UK will be seriously damaged."
Read our analysis on Brexit trade 👇https://t.co/GZwHYMxp8L
— BCC (@britishchambers) December 22, 2022
It comes as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called on the UK government to look again at how trade with Europe can be improved, two years on from the deal agreed by former prime minister Boris Johnson.
The business organisation has warned that Brexit is not helping its members to expand or boost sales.
The UK Brexit deal came after years of often fraught negotiations between London and Brussels, with the economic impact of the UK’s exit still a divisive issue in British politics.
Last month, the UK's Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said Brexit had caused a “significant adverse impact” on trade volumes and business relationships with EU firms.
Shevaun Haviland, director general of the BCC, called for an “honest dialogue” on improving the UK-EU trading relationship.
“Businesses feel they are banging their heads against a brick wall as nothing has been done to help them, almost two years after the TCA was first agreed.
“The longer the current problems go unchecked, the more EU traders go elsewhere, and the more damage is done,” she said.
The body is calling for a supplementary deal with the EU that can eliminate or reduce the complexity of food exports for small and medium-sized firms, as well as a Norway-style deal that would exempt smaller businesses from the requirement to have a fiscal representative for VAT in the EU.
Among a number of proposals, it is also calling for side deals with the EU and member states to allow UK firms to travel for longer and work in Europe.
The BCC, echoing the concerns of other business groups, also urged the British government to find an agreement to the ongoing row over the protocol.