Brexit deal breakthrough as major agreement reached with EU

Northern Ireland: Sefcovic discusses negotiations in 2022

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A major agreement between the UK and EU has been reached over the EU’s access to UK IT systems, paving the way for further talks on controversial post-Brexit agreements. A joint statement from Maros Sefcovic and James Cleverly said the agreement created a “new basis” for talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol. The two countries have been locked in talks over the protocol since October 2021.

Mr Cleverly and Mr Sefcovic met in London earlier today, in a meeting which was described as being “cordial and constructive”. 

The two parties agreed “while a range of critical issues need to be resolved to find a way forward, an agreement was reached today on the way forward regarding the specific question of the EU’s access to UK IT systems.” 

The joint statement added: “EU and UK technical teams will work rapidly to scope the potential for solutions on different areas on the basis of this renewed understanding, and the Foreign Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and Vice President Sefcovic would take stock of progress on 16 January.”

The protocol was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit.

It allows Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods but it has faced criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.

The border has led to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month, the EU showed signs of softening its stance over the protocol when Irish Taoseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that it had “perhaps” been “too strict”.

Mr Varadkar admitted that “mistakes” were made on both sides in the handling of Brexit.

The Irish Taoiseach, who was part of the negotiation process to agree on the Northern Ireland Protocol, said he would be “flexible and reasonable” when attempting to solve issues.

A Conservative insider last week told that the United States is “pushing” the European Union to be less “rigid” in its position on the protocol, saying it is trying to “encourage compromise from their end”.

They said the Biden administration is “desperate” to solve the disagreement before the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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