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UK says time running out for solution in Brexit trade talks

The British government tried Saturday to speed up the pace of talks to resolve post-Brexit trade troubles with the European Union, saying the two sides remain far apart and time is running out to bridge the gap.

UK and EU negotiators have met in Brussels over the past week to try and resolve major differences that have erupted over trade rules for Northern Ireland. The talks move to London on Tuesday, and Britain says “substantial gaps on the fundamental issues remain.”

The UK government said talks so far had been “constructive” but added that “we need to see real progress soon rather than get stuck in a process of endless negotiation because the issues on the ground in Northern Ireland haven’t gone away.”

Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and shares a border with EU member Ireland, remains inside the EU’s tariff-free single market for goods, even though the UK left the 27-nation bloc at the end of 2020.

That special status ensures there is an open border on the island of Ireland – a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process since the 1998 Good Friday accord. But it means a new customs border in the Irish Sea for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, even though they are part of the same country.

That has brought red tape for businesses, and caused problems with some goods reaching Northern Ireland. EU rules on chilled meats led to a brief sausage shortage, and now Britain claims that Christmas crackers – festive noisemakers that are a holiday party staple – are being prevented from reaching Northern Ireland.

The new arrangements have also angered Northern Ireland’s British Unionists, who say the checks undermine Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K. and destabilize the delicate political balance on which peace rests.

The EU accuses Britain of trying to renegotiate a legally binding agreement that it signed less than a year ago; some officials say it shows the UK government can’t be trusted. The bloc has, however, agreed to make changes to the deal, offering to reduce checks on food, plants and animals entering Northern Ireland by as much as 80 per cent and to cut paperwork for transport companies in half.

Britain has welcomed those proposals, but also is demanding that the EU’s top court be stripped of its role resolving any disputes over the agreement and replaced with independent arbitration – an idea the bloc flatly rejects.

Chief negotiators Maros Sefcovic of the EU and David Frost for Britain are due to meet in London at the end of next week to assess the talks’ progress. Britain on Saturday repeated a threat to trigger an emergency break clause that lets either side suspend the agreement in extreme circumstances if there is no breakthrough soon.

That would bring legal action from the EU, and potentially economic sanctions that could spiral into a trade war. Any such battle is likely to hurt the economy of the UK more than the much bigger EU.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also warned that talks couldn’t go on forever, and urged Britain on Friday to respond to the EU’s willingness to compromise.

“I think the EU has shown a real appetite for compromise, and they have consciously avoided creating tension,” he said. “I can’t say the same in terms of the British government’s approach.”

“I don’t think it will be the case forever, that the EU will be in compromise and solutions mode.”

Tata may freeze auction of steelworks to assess Brexit: Report

LONDON:

Tata Steel

is set to freeze auction of its UK steelworks while it assesses the fallout of the Brexit vote, a media report said today.

The Mumbai-headquartered steel giant had announced plans to auction its Port Talbot steelworks in Wales earlier this year.

However, ‘The Sunday Times’ reported that the move has been put on ice as it assesses the fallout of the Brexit vote.

“The Indian giant will ‘pause’ the sale amid uncertainty over the impact of the decision to leave the EU,” the newspaper quoted sources as saying.

The board is yet to make a formal decision but is under less pressure to sell after a jump in steel prices, which has cut losses at the south Wales site, the report said.

The company will reportedly stall the auction to await the outcome of a UK government deal to cut its 14 billion pound pension liabilities as well as talks on EU trade deals.

The decision may come as a blow to bidders, including the Indian-origin businessman Sanjeev Gupta-led commodities trader Liberty House and management buyout firm Excalibur.

The newspaper has also reported in the past that the Tata Group had already been leaning towards retaining the plant before the Brexit decision.

“The strategic review of our UK business continues. Like businesses across the UK, parties involved will be considering implications from the referendum. We remain committed to working towards the best possible outcome for our UK business,” a Tata statement said.

Tata warns that UK steel making needs bigger profits to survive

By Thomas Biesheuvel

The smoking towers of the Port Talbot steelworks have dominated the South Wales skyline for more than a century. If they’re to continue to do so for decades to come, they’ll need to make more money.
The past decade has seen some of the most traumatic years for the plant. Hurt by the global financial crisis and then by a commodity-price collapse in 2015, site owner

Tata Steel

Ltd. struggled to make money in the UK It has sold most of its British assets, bought as part of a $12 billion deal just a decade ago, but still runs Port Talbot after abandoning a sale process in 2016.

“The objective of any site should be that it can take care of itself. That’s your best guarantee for the future,” said T. V. Narendran, managing director of Mumbai-based Tata Steel. “The effort put in in the last three years has brought the business to 60 percent of where it should be.”

While the curtailment of cheap Chinese supply has helped the market recover in the past couple of years, Tata is merging its European steel operations with German rival Thyssenkrupp AG to better compete. Though the companies say this will create a stronger business on the continent — second only to ArcelorMittal — Tata’s UK operations have long underperformed its Dutch assets and Thyssenkrupp’s German plants.
Site Commitment
For now, Tata remains committed to Port Talbot. It’s working on extending the life of one of the two blast furnaces and has pledged to run both of them until at least 2022. After that it will come down to performance.

“A lot depends on our ability to continue to improve the performance in the UK, and to continue to generate cash in the UK and run a competitive business there,” Narendran said. “We are also waiting to see the outcome of Brexit and what the impact of that is on our operations, and then we will decide.”

Bloomberg

British steelmaking has been in decline for more than a century, eclipsed by the U.S. by the start of World War I and later overtaken by Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s, inefficient and outdated plants saw production slump, falling behind France, Italy and Belgium. More recently, a lack of investment, higher energy costs and a tough regulatory environment have hurt UK steelmakers that once produced about 40 percent of global supply.

Tata also faces Brexit uncertainty. With just six months until the UK is set to leave the European Union and lawmakers from both sides yet to reach an agreement, the steel producer says it’s preparing for the worst.

Until “the terms of Brexit are clear, it’s difficult for us,” Narendran said. “It will impact us because 30 percent to 40 percent is exported. We will be impacted because of what happens to the pound. We will be impacted by what happens to our customers. There are multiple moving parts.”

Still, Tata said much preparation can be done in advance to ensure supply chains between the Netherlands and UK run as smoothly as possible, and that it has been given pointers from the British government to help that.

“There are too many ifs and buts now,” said Narendran. “It’s a question of adjusting to a new way of life and adapting to that.”

With double-digit growth here, India can be one of our top 3 markets: Eric Rondolat

Philips Lighting is seeing double-digit growth in India, which is among the top five markets in the world for the global company, and poised to rise to the third rank, Eric Rondolat, its global CEO said. He said the world has been a tougher place to do business in the past few years, but India has seen some very disruptive but positive changes like the GST, which impacted Philips’ sales in India but will bring great benefits. In an interview with ET’s Himangshu Watts, Rondolat, whose company recently changed its name to Signify but uses the Philips brand, also said that India had been made the base for some of the company’s global activities and that Indian customers have shown great interest in the company’s technology of Li-Fi, which uses light to transmit data with much higher speed and security thanWi-Fi. Edited excerpts:

What has been your experience in India?
Fabulous. Very often our customers think we’re an Indian brand. We have two centres of R&D. One very local, other works for the world. One in three products in Indian households for lighting is probably a Philips brand. We try to capture the local habits.

What are your investment plans?
I think we have a leading position in the market here. We have a double-digit growth. We are extremely happy about the investment that we are doing continuously. It’s not about opening new plants. We have an established industrial network. We work with more than 48 local companies.

We were very progressive and proactive when the Prakash Path programme (of LED lighting) was launched. This was about big amount, close to 800 million bulbs for households and 35 million street lights. When we did that, we localised. Today when we supply LED lamps, 98% of what we supply is made here. We continue investing in R&D, we continue to invest in our established industries, but also in the large ecosystem in India.

We invest and we will continue to invest because we believe in this market. We are making investment in terms of network operating Centre for the world that we’ve established in Bengaluru. India, for us, is in the top five markets of Signify. Market No 1would be US, No. 2 would be China, and India is not far behind

Is it easier to do business in India?
I’ve seen in the past few years, a lot of positives, although very disruptive. We clearly have absolutely no political role to play, but in the past years, but what I’ve seen done, I’ve seen nowhere else in the world. The speed at which LED was introduced, I’ve seen nowhere else. That has been exceptional.

At the end, we have seen it as very positive. We are a sustainability company. That was clearly very positive, very disruptive, but a very good move. Another one is the GST. In the beginning it was a very big constraint but in the medium term, it’s very positive for our team. It’ll simplify what was very very complex. Demonetisation was also disruptive. Demonetisation limited business for two quarters and a half.

How did GST disrupt your sales?
We are not selling directly to end consumers. We have 800 plus distributors, close to a million retail points. GST transaction is impacting at every stage. Distributors had to change the billing completely. If you look at supply chain, the whole system of theirs needs to change. Disruption was to make sure this whole value chain adapts to this chain quickly. For Philips as a company, it was not such a big deal. It was more for our distributors.

How do you respond to anti-globalisation, protectionist moves and events like Brexit?
If you take the example of Brexit, the outcome is what it’s going to be, but the uncertainty that this creates temporarily is very negative. Very negative for the business, very negative for the stability of people and employees that may not know what the status is going to be at the end of the game. It’s also very true for all the uncertainty that lies behind renegotiation of some global agreements. It’s not conducive for business.

On the other hand, you have a new distribution of the cards. Our job is to understand what’s the consequence of that and then to adapt to it; and that’s what we’re doing. In UK for instance, there was a devaluation of the pound, we didn’t think it’s fair to transmit it to the market. We had to readapt to operate in that market successfully. If you look at US. We’re going to be impacted. We evaluated this to be about ¤19 million. We’re going to face it. Has this period been stable for a company like ours? No. Has it been challenging? Absolutely. It will increase our prices one way or another.

So, is the world a tougher place to do business in? In the past few years, the world has been a tougher place to do business. When it’s tougher, it’s means you have a chance to do it much better than others. It has led us to take very important strategic measures to face different situations in the markets we operate.

What specific plans do you have for India?
India is in the top five of our markets. I think India is going to be one of the fastest economies in the world in the coming decades. I strongly believe in that. I’ve been associated with India for 15 years. This is a country in which I believe very, very strongly. If there is, and there will be, positive economic development, we should benefit because we have a leadership position.

In the future I see India as being part of top three markets in the company. Our plans are commercial, R&D, and industrial. We have an industrial base in India; most of what we manufacture is for India, partly for the world. India is going to be an interesting place to manufacture more and more in the years to come. Not just because of the big market which is available, but also because of capabilities of people, infrastructure and ecosystem in terms of manufacturing that is going to improve.

In India we are testing, developing and selling our latest products like Li-Fi, which replaces Wi-Fi. Instead of getting internet through electromegnatic waves, you do through light. We have won a significant project, and many customers are interested.

What’s good: First of all, it’s much more stable than Wi-Fi. It’s much faster. It’s secure. If you are not inside the building,you don’t get it. That feature has attracted many customers. We believe a lot in that technology. We have closed our first project in India using that technology. There are lot of customers interested. All the patents are ours. It’s our technology from A to Z.

Driverless cars, can be guided by light poles. Technology is available. Here in India we talk about architectural lighting. We’ve done India Gate, Red Fort and the North and South gate of Central Secretariat, Rashtrapati Bhavan.

What is the role of Bengaluru in your global operations?
In Bengaluru we are using the capabilities of ecosystem. It’s about software, apps, developments; it’s also about embedded software on all different types of electronics. Recently we’ve also used it to look at two avenues. One of them is our enterprise information system, artificial intelligence.

We’ve also moved to Bengaluru our central operating centre. Streetlights software is on the cloud, it’s normally updated every three weeks. You need a network operating centre to manage that, to manage the different operating centres. We’ve moved that to Bengaluru.

Brexit brinkmanship: UK tells EU door still open for deal

LONDON: Britain said on Monday the door was still open if the European Union wanted to make some small concessions to save Brexit trade talks, but that unless the bloc budged there would be a no-deal exit in 10 weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks and it was time to prepare for a no-deal departure when Britain’s informal EU membership – known as the transition period – ends on Dec. 31.

But Michael Gove, his Brexit supremo who favours a deal, has struck a more conciliatory tone, saying agreement could be reached if the bloc compromised.

“It would be sensible at this point for them to go that extra mile, to come closer to us on the points that remain for discussion,” added British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

“We hope that they could come forward now with some relatively small but important changes which respect us as an independent sovereign nation,” he told Sky News.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with British counterpart David Frost this week. Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic is due in London for a meeting on implementation of the 2020 porce deal with Gove.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday when the European Union demanded Britain give ground. Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, dispute resolution and fisheries.

EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

“A DEAL, BUT NOT AT ANY PRICE”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU.

“We are ready for a deal, but not at any price,” he said.

A no-deal finale to the United Kingdom’s five-year Brexit crisis would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector – just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses to step up preparations for that. In a statement accompanying the launch, Gove says: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table next week and strike a deal.

“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through,” they said.

UK recovery continues but way to go to recoup virus losses; faces risks related to Brexit

LONDON : The British economy recouped further lost ground during July after a swath of coronavirus restrictions on businesses were lifted, official figures showed Friday. However, it still has to make up around half the output lost at the peak of the lockdown and now faces renewed risks related to Brexit.

The Office for National Statistics said the British economy grew by a monthly rate of 6.6% as many sectors started reopening after months of being idle during the lockdown. The hospitality sector, which includes, hotels, pubs and restaurants, reopened at the start of July, for example.

Other sectors, such as manufacturing and house-building also continued their recovery, though industrial production and construction remain below their pre-crisis levels.

July’s increase means that the British economy has now grown for three months in a row in the wake of April’s dramatic 20% slide. Overall, the British economy remains 11.7% smaller than it was in February before the full economic impact of the pandemic was felt.

Economists think the pace of the recovery will moderate following of a recent pick-up in new virus infections that has seen the re-imposition of lockdown restrictions on social gatherings, for example.

The looming end of a salary-support scheme and heightened uncertainties over a trade deal between the U.K. and the European Union are also expected to weigh on growth and, as a result, most economists think the economy will end the year around 8% smaller than it was before the pandemic.

“We’re likely to see the pace of expansion slow in August and September and stall as we head into the winter as the `mechanical rebound’ ends and unemployment rises,” said James Smith, developed markets economist at ING.

Concerns over a post-Brexit deal have become a particular concern over the past few days amid a souring in relations between the U.K. and the EU. The announcement from the British government that new legislation breaches elements of the withdrawal agreement, which allowed for the country’s smooth departure from the bloc at the start of the year, has prompted a furious reaction from the EU and raised the prospect of an imminent collapse in the talks.

Even before the current standoff, the trade discussions had made very little progress, with the two sides seemingly wide apart on several issues, notably on business regulations, the extent to which the U.K. can support certain industries and over the EU fishing fleet’s access to British waters.

The EU has been particularly insistent on ensuring that British-based businesses don’t have an unfair advantage as a result of laxer social, environmental or subsidy rules in the U.K.

British businesses are worried about a collapse in the talks that could see tariffs and other impediments slapped on trade with the EU at the start of next year. Most economists think that the costs of a “no-deal” outcome would fall disproportionately on the U.K., as trade with EU accounts for around half the total.

Supporters of Brexit have said that one of the benefits of unshackling the British economy from the EU is that it allows the country to sign trade deals with whoever it wishes _ the EU negotiates trade deals on behalf of all its members.

On Friday, the British government said it had secured a free trade agreement in principle with Japan, its first major deal as an independent trading nation.

Though details of the agreement are thin, the government said the U.K.-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement “goes far beyond” the existing deal between the EU and Japan and will increase commerce with Japan by around 15 billion pounds ($19 billion).

Skeptics say no amount of trade deals can mitigate for the losses that may accrue in the event of a `no-deal’ outcome with the EU.

UK’s Brexit hardliners agree to vote for EU trade deal

LONDON: A group of staunchly pro-Brexit lawmakers from Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will back his UK-EU trade deal in parliament on Wednesday after they decided the agreement preserved the UK’s sovereignty.

The European Research Group, which sees threats to British sovereignty from close ties to the European Union, said it was satisfied with the deal which Johnson reached on Dec. 24 with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Our overall conclusion is that the agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties,” the group’s legal advisory committee said.

“The ‘level playing field’ clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government.”

It added that the level playing field did not prevent Britain from changing its laws as it saw fit, at a risk of tariff countermeasures. If those were unacceptable the agreement could be terminated with 12 months’ notice.

British lawmakers will on vote on the deal on Wednesday, less than 48 hours before transition arrangements between Britain and the EU expire.

The opposition Labour Party has said it will back the deal, making it almost certain to pass into law regardless of the support of Conservative lawmakers from the ERG.

The ERG was long a thorn in the side of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and – aided by a Labour Party focused on overturning her minority government – had blocked efforts to preserve closer economic ties with the EU.

With a month until split, Brexit trade deal hangs in balance

London: The British government told businesses on Tuesday to make sure they are ready for big changes when the UK makes its final Brexit break from the European Union in exactly a month. But with negotiations on a free-trade deal with the bloc stuck, firms say they still don’t know key details of what those changes will be.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, said trade talks were “getting close to the wire.” “It’s certainly the case that there is a chance that we may not get a negotiation outcome, that’s why it’s important that businesses prepare for all eventualities,” he told ITV.

The UK left the EU early this year, but remained part of the 27-nation bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect January 1.

Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before the end of the year.

Teams led by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British counterpart David Frost met through the weekend in London with no breakthrough. Talks are continuing, and UK officials have said this is the last week to strike a deal.

The two sides remain stuck over key issues including the resolution of future disputes and “level playing field” provisions – the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.

The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe’s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the U.K. insists it must control access and quotas.

Gove said EU demands on fishing were “not fair.” If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.

The British government has launched a major information campaign, with billboards and advertisements warning that “time is running out” and telling businesses to get ready for change on January 1. But firms that trade with the EU say they still don’t know what conditions they will face in a month’s time.

“There’s an awful lot I don’t feel ready for because I can’t get the answers from the government website,” said James Greenham, managing director of EMS Physio, which exports physiotherapy equipment.

“You go on the government website and you get taken down various wormholes and then it ends in a dead end,” he told the BBC. “There’s no information. The decision has yet to be taken.” Things will be smoother with a deal, which would remove quotas and tariffs on goods, though businesses still face new obstacles and red tape, including customs declarations and border checks.

Gove said “more than 80% of what business needs to do” would be the same whether or not there is an agreement.

“But I very much want a deal and I believe that we can secure one,” he said.

EU officials formally sign post-Brexit trade deal with UK

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s top officials on Wednesday formally signed the long fought-over post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel put pen to paper during a brief signature ceremony in Brussels. The documents will now be flown across the Channel to London in a RAF plane for British Prime minister Boris Johnson to sign them.

“The agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity,” Michel said. “It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies”.

The U.K. Parliament will later start debating the agreement setting up new trade rules between the 27-nation bloc and former member Britain. It is set to provisionally enter into force on Jan. 1. The agreement eventually needs approval from Britain’s Parliament, and from the EU’s legislature, which is not expected to take up the deal for weeks.

The leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups said they would not seek full approval until March because of the specific and far-reaching implications of the agreement. The overwhelming expectation is that EU lawmakers will approve the deal.

The 1,240-page post-Brexit deal was sealed by the EU and the U.K. on Christmas Eve, just a week before the year-end deadline.

“On major issues, the European Union stands ready to work shoulder to shoulder with the United Kingdom,” Michel said. “This will be the case on climate change, ahead of the COP 26 in Glasgow, and on the global response to pandemics, in particular with a possible treaty on pandemics. On foreign affairs, we will seek cooperation on specific issues based on shared values and interests.”

UK, EU meeting in bid to calm post-Brexit trade turbulence

LONDON: Breaking up is proving hard to do for Britain and the European Union, whose porce deal is in choppy waters just six weeks after the U.K. made its economic split from the bloc.

U.K. Brexit minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic are meeting in London later Thursday to try to smooth out the problems, but few expect a quick resolution.

The turbulence centers on Northern Ireland, whose complex status has been one of the trickiest issues in the U.K.-EU porce.

Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator during years of Brexit talks, said both sides “must be conscious of their responsibilities” to Northern Ireland.

“The situation has never been easy in Ireland and everything is complex,” he said at a European business summit on Thursday. “I recommend personally to everybody on both sides to be responsible and take care.”

Since Britain left the EU’s economic structures on Dec. 31, goods moving between the U.K. and the bloc have faced customs and veterinary checks under the terms of a new trade deal. Checks have also been imposed on some British goods going to Northern Ireland because it shares a border with EU member-state Ireland.

Those checks have unsettled the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K. where some people identify as British and some as Irish. The new measures are designed to prevent a hard border being imposed between Ireland and the north — something that could undermine the Irish peace process — but they are opposed by pro-British Unionists, who say they drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

Northern Ireland authorities halted veterinary checks and withdrew border staff from ports for several days this month after threatening graffiti appeared referring to port workers as targets.

The sensitivity of Northern Ireland’s status was underscored earlier this month when the EU briefly threatened to ban shipments of coronavirus vaccines to Northern Ireland amid a dispute with Anglo-Swedish drugmaker

AstraZeneca

. That would have drawn a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland — exactly what the Brexit trade deal was crafted to avoid.

The EU quickly dropped the idea after British, Irish and Northern Ireland politicians expressed alarm. But Britain has seized on the gaffe to accuse the EU of undermining the Brexit porce agreement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, said the bloc’s move had caused “shock and anger” in Northern Ireland. He said there was a need “to take urgent steps to restore confidence as a result.”

The U.K. wants the EU to take a more light-touch approach to border checks, which have already led to shortages and delays in getting some goods to Northern Ireland. Britain has asked for short-term grace periods that have delayed imposition of full red tape on supermarket supplies, parcels and medicines extended until at least 2023.

The EU says some economic friction is the inevitable outcome of Britain’s decision to leave the bloc’s single market and customs union, and insists the Northern Ireland Protocol can’t be significantly renegotiated.

In a letter to Gove before their meeting, Sefcovic pointed to “shortcomings” in Britain’s implementation of the agreement, saying border facilities were fully up and running and only limited checks were taking place.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin urged both sides to “dial down the rhetoric.”

“There are bound to be teething issues and teething problems,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE.