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Supply Chain

UK Wants To Find A Northern Ireland Trade Solution: Report

Britain wants to de-escalate tensions with the European Union and renew efforts to find a solution over a Northern Ireland trade dispute that has threatened broader relations between the two sides, the Times newspaper reported on Friday.

Britain's Brexit minister David Frost will meet with the European Commission's Maros Sefcovic in London on Friday, and the Times said he would emphasise that a deal could be found to ease trade tensions on its province of Northern Ireland.

Since leaving the EU last year Britain has delayed the introduction of some border checks that were designed to avoid the need for a hard frontier between the British province and EU-member Ireland. London says the checks are disproportionate and threaten Northern Ireland's 1998 peace deal.

Tighter Controls

The EU says tighter controls are necessary to protect its single market of 450 million people. EU governments have agreed on the need for "robust" action against Britain if London follows through on its threat to unilaterally suspend elements of the Brexit divorce agreement.

Ireland suggested that could mean the 2020 post-Brexit free trade deal would need to be set aside.

In recent weeks Britain has threatened to trigger Article 16, a move which allows either side to take unilateral action if they deem the agreement is having a strongly negative impact on their interests.

Progress In Recent Talks

Frost said earlier this week that the two sides had made progress in recent talks but that the gap remained extremely wide.

The Times said that while Britain had reservations about the Commission's proposals to reduce checks on goods crossing between Britain and Northern Ireland, they could form the basis of an agreement, if changes were made.

"Triggering Article 16 does not solve the problems we face," the Times quoted a British source as saying. "Even if we were to do it, eventually we'd still have to get back round the table."

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