UK and EU officials have involved in intense “technical talks” over the future checks on food, plants and parcels going from Britain to Northern Ireland. Relations between the two sides had hit rock bottom last month, with the EU launching legal action against the UK over the extension of the grace period for checks on supermarket goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland. Now Brussels officials have reportedly put it to their UK counterparts 90 percent of border checks could be wiped out – but only if Britain align food standards with those of the bloc.
But such an agreement would appear extremely unlikely as it would represent a massive U-turn for the UK, which has continued to stand firm on most of its red lines in negotiations and has strongly been against regulatory alignment to achieve a hard Brexit.
It had been suggested if the UK is willing to adopt an agreement similar to that operating for Australia and New Zealand agrifood trade, then border checks could be eased quite significantly.
However, industry insiders have warned this would still not come close to solving the problem or address concerns from loyalists as it would still require a large amount of paperwork.
Britons have reacted furiously to the move from the EU towards the UK over compromising on Northern Ireland trade and have demanded the Prime Minister now rip up the Brexit deal so the UK can trade on World Trade Organisation terms.
Reacting to our initial story, one raging Express.co.uk reader wrote: “Now we see the EU games coming to fruition this is just another ploy to keep us tied to their bureaucratic nightmare and to pay through the nose for its everlasting control.
“Even though we supposedly left 4 months ago it still seems as though we’re stuck in Hotel California, Boris better tell them to do one better still go to WTO.”
A second person said: “Just leave them to do and say what they want and pull the plug on the EU.”
Another reader commented: “No chance. Do not buy anything from the EU that can be made, grown or produced in the UK!”
READ MORE: Sir James Dyson praises Brexit for putting UK ahead of EU
Lord Frost will meet with the European Commission vice-president to discuss the ongoing issues with Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid a hard border.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Technical engagement with the EU in relation to the Protocol had continued over recent days and we remain in regular contact at all levels.
“The discussions have been constructive but there are still significant differences that need to be resolved.
“Both the UK and EU are engaging with business, civil society and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland, to understand the issues they are facing.
“The UK remains committed to working through the outstanding issues in order to restore confidence on the ground in Northern Ireland, reflect the needs of communities and respect all dimensions of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”
Following Brexit, Northern Ireland has effectively remained in the EU’s Single Market to avoid a hard border between the region and mainland Britain.
Last month, the UK sent a document to Brussels outlining its views on the outstanding issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But eurocrats have rejected this, arguing this falls short of what was expected to be a “roadmap” to Britain’s full implementation of the post-Brexit border arrangements.
Downing Street is pushing for greater flexibility from the EU’s trade rules to limit any trade GB-NI trade borders, and there have been suggestions Brussels could offer the possibility of a joint UK-EU veterinary pact to achieve this.
However, this would mark a dramatic change in direction from Britain, with Lord Frost’s negotiating team previously rejecting any chance of Britain aligning to EU standards.