Talks aimed at ending the stalemate over the implementation of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in Northern Ireland ended without a breakthrough.
After a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission in London, Brexit Minister Lord Frost said they had a “frank and honest” discussion and agreed to continue the negotiations.
“There were no breakthroughs. There are also no interruptions and we will continue to talk, ‘he said.
The meeting took place against the background of continuing tensions over the control of goods moving from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland, as required under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement.
Lord Frost refused to rule out the prospect that the UK could unilaterally delay the implementation of checks on chilled meat – due to the end of the month – if there had been no agreement before.
Prior to the meeting, Sefcovic had envisioned that such a move could lead to a trade war, saying the EU would respond “firmly and resolutely” if the UK did not meet its international treaty obligations.
Lord Frost said: “It is clear that we have discussed the subject today among many others. There were no breakthroughs about it and we continue to consider all our options about it and many other issues. ”
He added: ‘What we really need to do now is find very urgent solutions that support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland and get things back on track.
“What the EU insists on is that we implement the protocol in an extremely purist way. The reality is that it is a very balanced document designed to support the peace process and deal with the very sensitive politics of Northern Ireland.
‘Of course it’s best to find a negotiated agreement if we can, and that’s what we really intend to do. If we can not, and we are working very hard on it, we must of course consider all our options for next steps. ”
In a statement following the meeting, the government expressed its concern that there had been no “substantial progress” on a number of issues and warned that there was a danger that the supply of medicines could be affected unless’ is an early breakthrough.
“The UK will continue to submit detailed proposals, as we have done all year, and look forward to discussing any proposals the EU may propose,” he said.
“There is an urgent need for further discussions to make real progress, especially to avoid disruption of critical supplies such as medicines.”