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Closing the customs settlement between the European Union and London

Closing the customs settlement between the European Union and London

The future of the European Union

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is trying to finalize a customs settlement with the European Commission. Archive photo. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth AP/TT

Economy (TT-Bloomberg)

The British government and the European Commission are close to reaching a settlement on the long-running dispute over tariffs on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The issue has been a hot-button political issue since Brexit two years ago.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is scheduled to amend positions in a telephone conversation with Maros Sefcovic, representative of the European Commission, to move the issue to final negotiations.

Technically, it concerns the content of the disputed so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which has caused unionists in Northern Ireland to rise to the fore because it means the Northern Irish are separated from the rest of Great Britain by customs.

Real-time data normalization

Last week, the EU and Britain agreed to use real-time data to monitor the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which could form the basis of a wider customs deal.

– European Parliamentarian Barry Andrews from the Irish Fianna Fáil party said in a radio interview last weekend: – Trust has been built between the two parties.

– It is expected to be a political declaration – not a binding international agreement, but rather a declaration and a framework for moving forward after the Sefcovic-Cleverley talks.

The aim then is to reach a more comprehensive agreement by the end of February, before the anniversary of the 1998 Belfast Agreement in April.

The Democratic Unionist Party must be convinced

Among the sensitive issues that still need to be settled, in addition to what customs rules should look like, there is also what role the European Court of Justice should play and what it should apply to food products.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak included Opposition Leader Keir Starmer in the remarks. But then he must also convince the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland to accept the settlement.

The Democratic Unionist Party, in protest against the current Northern Ireland Protocol, has blocked the formation of a new regional government for Northern Ireland since May.

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