Progress on protocol possible without triggering Article 16, says Gove

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Progress On Protocol Possible Without Triggering Article 16, Says Gove Progress On Protocol Possible Without Triggering Article 16, Says Gove
Earlier, Mr Sefcovic said new measures on the protocol will create an “express line” on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, resulting in a “win-win situation” for all. Photo: PA Images
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By James Ward, PA

Progress on negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol can be made without triggering Article 16, Michael Gove has said.

Fresh talks between UK Brexit minster Lord David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic are taking place on Friday.

UK cabinet minister Mr Gove expressed confidence that talks can progress without the need for the UK to trigger Article 16, which would suspend elements of the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Speaking at the British-Irish Council summit in Cardiff, Mr Gove said: “I do believe that there is a constructive approach that’s being taken by the Commission and Lord Frost has signalled that while, of course, it’s always possible that Article 16 may require to be invoked, we’re confident that we’ll be able to make progress without it.”

Earlier, Mr Sefcovic said new measures on the protocol will create an “express line” on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, resulting in a “win-win situation” for all.

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He said the bloc will offer to permanently slash customs paperwork by 50 per cent, along with the removal of up to 80 per cent of checks.

Mr Sefcovic was speaking at the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University on Friday, immediately before crunch talks with his counterpart.

He called on the UK to “reciprocate” but welcomed the recent “change in tone” in talks.

Mr Sefcovic said the “comprehensive long-term solution” that would see “further facilitation and simplification” of customs checks will result in a “50 per cent permanent reduction in existing paperwork”.

He added: “These measures would create a type of express line, which would substantially facilitate trade between all parties, a win-win situation for all.

“It is a unique and completely new model for how goods can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, one that will strengthen opportunities for people and businesses alike.”

He added: “It will make the application of the protocol more transparent while at the same time respecting the UK’s constitutional order.

“A website will also be set up to show in a clear and comprehensive way the EU legislation applicable in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Sefcovic, speaking in London earlier (Hollie Adams/PA)

However, Mr Sefcovic has warned that the post-Brexit trade deal is “intrinsically linked” to settling the withdrawal agreement, which includes the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Settling the divorce has always been and remains a precondition for our future relationship” he said.

“It was on this basis that we negotiated, concluded and ratified the trade and co-operation agreement on Christmas Eve last year.

“The two agreements are intrinsically linked, one cannot exist without the other.”

Mr Sefcovic also welcomed a “change in tone” from the UK government in negotiations on the protocol, but said they now must reciprocate on the measures.

He said: “Right now we need the UK government to reciprocate the significant move the EU has made.

“I notice and welcome a recent change in tone from the UK government, and we hope that actions will follow the words.”

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