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Katya Adler said both sides remained far apart on the issue of “whether businesses need to fill out exit declarations for goods leaving Northern Ireland”. Dom Walsh, a research fellow at London-based think tank Policy Exchange, questioned why the EU seems to be “digging in on exit declarations”.
He said if goods can freely flow from Northern Ireland to Britain, as opposed to the opposite direction, “then the ‘risk to the single market’ line doesn’t fly”.
Ms Adler agreed with his assessment and said EU diplomats have told her this is not a major issue for them.
She suggested Brussels was standing firm on the issue to possibly use it as a way to bargain for other things it wanted more in trade talks.
She explained: “Yes. And off record, EU national diplomats often say this isn’t a big issue for EU but state aid (the other issue affected by Internal Market Bill) is huge for them.
“Could be tactics – Keep something up sleeve that’s easy to compromise over to bargain for another thing you want?”
This week’s round of post-Brexit meetings is the final official time both sides are scheduled to meet.
On Tuesday a report by Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE News said the European Commission had set out a proposal that would determine which goods moving from Britain to the Six Counties should have tariffs slapped on, and which should not.
The plan would kick into effect on January 1.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, negotiated by Boris Johnson with the EU last October, is part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Under the protocol, goods coming into Northern Ireland from Britain would be considered to pose a risk of crossing the border into the EU’s single market, unless it can be shown otherwise.
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The province shares a 310-mile border with the Republic, a member state of the EU.
The protocol will see Northern Ireland continue to enforce the EU’s customs rules and follow its rules on product standards.
The arrangement means there will be no need for checks on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic.
EU figures have fiercely condemned the Prime Minister’s Internal Market Bill.
The controversial proposed legal framework would override agreements made on the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.
The agreement aimed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which is still part of the EU.
Fishing and the so-called level playing field commitment the EU is demanding will also feature heavily in the talks which kicked off this morning.
The round will wrap up on Friday following a meeting between chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier.
All eyes will be on the pair as they discuss the outcome of the talks, with less than 100 days to go before the Brexit transition period expires.
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