EU ministers urge UK to end N. Ireland row


EU ministers on Tuesday urged Britain to bury the hatchet over post-Brexit trading arrangements and backed Brussels in its efforts to find a solution to a row over Northern Ireland.

“Dear friends in London and Great Britain, please come to your senses,” pleaded German European Affairs minister Michael Roth as he arrived in Brussels for talks with his counterparts.

“This is not a game…. Dammit, we want to work together in partnership and friendship,” he said, adding that obeying the terms of what was agreed in EU-UK post-Brexit arrangements “shouldn’t be that difficult”.

The tough words from one of the EU’s most powerful member states indicated that Maros Sefcovic, the EU negotiator in charge of relations with the UK, had the full backing of the European capitals.

Sefcovic was to debrief the ministers a few days before a sixth meeting with his UK counterpart, Brexit minister David Frost, to unblock an impasse over British demands that a protocol governing trade affairs with Northern Ireland be overhauled.

Sefcovic on Sunday said a breakthrough required a “big move” by Britain, which has maintained threats to suspend the protocol that could trigger a trade war between Britain and the EU.

“I want to thank my European colleagues for their solidarity and support,” said Irish European Affairs minister Thomas Byrne.

“This is a very, very important time and we strongly encourage the British to help to bring this process to a conclusion as quickly as possible,” he added.

Britain’s ties with France are also being stressed over fishing rights, with French vessels struggling to win licenses from Jersey, a British dependency just off the coast of Normandy.“

What we are asking for is the application of the agreement, these are not new demands in relation to the agreement,” said French Europe Minister Clement Beaune after meeting Frost in Paris on Monday. The meeting with Frost was a “positive sign” but big differences remained, Beaune added.—AP

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