EU lawmakers endorsed the bloc’s trade deal with Britain on Thursday, in a vote that Brussels hopes will help boost relations as diplomatic efforts intensify to ease tensions in the North. Ireland.
Two important committees of the European Parliament approved a “trade and cooperation” agreement between the UK and the EU, paving the way for a final approval vote in the council’s future.
This agreement – which offers duty-free trade on most goods – has been in effect temporarily since January, after it was signed at the end of 2020, just in time for the UK to exit the EU single market.
The MEP said endorsement was a key step for Thursday night’s pre-dinner relationship between EU Brexit commissioner Maros Sefcovic and UK counterpart David Frost, where two politicians will consider these Recent tensions regarding Northern Ireland.
The UK and the EU have held in-depth talks in recent days on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol – the system of trade rules included in the Brexit divorce agreement by both sides designed to prevent the need for of any land border on the island of Ireland.
Brussels, London and Dublin all emphasized the need to adopt the protocol in a way that minimizes the risk of sparking further sectarian tensions that have flared in eight consecutive nights of ferment in Belfast this month.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney met with Frost and other UK ministers in London on Thursday as part of an effort to find common ground.
“We need to talk seriously about how the protocol is being managed, how it can be done in a way that listens to the concerns of many people in Northern Ireland,” Coveney told broadcaster RTE. flexibility can happen ”.
This week, Brussels said it was ready to “find quick pragmatic solutions within the framework of the protocol”, while UK’s Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis called for a “flexible” approach. flexibility and flexibility ”to apply commercial agreements.
Although the 2019 divorce pact that includes the EU-UK trade agreement and protocol agreed last year is legally separate, the MEP has linked the two sides politically.
The European Parliament introduced the frozen trade deal ratification process earlier this year to protest UK moves to unilaterally extend the grace period on certain requirements of the security protocol. food safety.
The board’s leadership decided this week to wait until after Frost’s meeting with Sefcovic before setting a date for the final approval vote, but Thursday’s committee votes were a standard step. is important.
At their dinner, Sefcovic and Frost will look at process implementation issues, from food safety checks to building border checkpoints and selling drugs and steel.
Prior to that meeting, Sefcovic welcomed strong endorsement by the EU parliamentary committees for the EU-UK trade deal – the document was backed with 108 positive votes, one against and four abstentions.
The trade agreement “benefits our citizens and businesses and establishes a level playing field and effective governance to enforce it,” he said on Twitter.
A person familiar with the Frost, Lewis and Coveney meeting in London earlier on Thursday said the three held a “very good” discussion on Northern Ireland, Anglo-Irish protocol and relations. They discussed “the need to ensure that governments work together and restore calm.”
The meeting mentioned relieving some pressure points in the protocol, but not an overhaul of the fundamental principle of having customs borders in the Irish Sea, a concept that members of the North Ireland was deeply philosophically opposed.
“It was a really positive interaction,” one person said, adding that there was “progress” in sessions that lasted more than an hour.
On Thursday, a senior Northern Ireland official Denis McMahon told Stormont he did not expect permanent customs facilities to be located at Northern Ireland ports until 2023.