November 24, 2021

EU-UK Problems Expected to Continue?

 Discussions between the UK and the European Union (EU) on Northern Ireland’s trade rules are likely to drag on until next year.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said he may have placed too high hopes on his earlier words that the talks could be completed before Christmas.

Sefcovic argues that if there is a clear political will on the part of the UK, the problem can be solved. However, after looking at the progress made in the last four weeks, he said they will not be able to finish it all before the end of the year.

The two sides have been at loggerheads for months over how to regulate trade between Britain and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK but remains in the EU’s single market under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement reached by both sides in 2019.

Sefcovic reiterated his hope that the UK and the EU can still make progress this week, particularly on the issue of the drug trade between Britain and Northern Ireland which will spur positive momentum for future talks.

The issue of medicines needs to be resolved immediately as the grace period for border checks and regulatory approvals will end at the end of this year.

Although the UK decided to extend the period unilaterally, there is a risk of uncertainty and disruption of trade for medicines if both parties do not reach an agreement before the end of January.