There is hope that the Irish will be able to reach a breakthrough in their border negotiations on Brexit. This comes amid a ‘change of tone” between Lord Frost (EU counterpart) and other talks.

  • After discussions, there is still hope for an Irish border agreement on a Brexit deal.
  • European Commission VP Maros Sefcovic detailed a ‘change in tone’ in talks
  • Mr Sefcovic had been speaking to Lord Frost, the Brexit minister for Britain

Ministers are backing away from threats to tear up parts of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, amid rising hopes of an agreement on resolving the Northern Ireland border problem.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said yesterday there had been a ‘change in tone’ during talks in London with Brexit minister Lord Frost.

Whitehall is speculating that Article 16 of Northern Ireland’s protocol will be activated in this month. This would suspend EU customs inspections despite Brussels warnings. 

However, a Government source said last night that although the plan remains ‘on the table’ it is ‘not imminent’.

A 'No Hard Border' poster is seen below a road sign on the Irish side of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland near Bridgend, Ireland

Below a road sign at the Irish border of Northern Ireland and Ireland, near Bridgend in Ireland is a ‘No Hard Border” poster

A hard border in Ireland risks more scenes like this from April 2021, when it was thought rising discontent about the border situation between Britain and Ireland fuelled violence

From April 2021 onwards, it is possible for Ireland to have a hard border. This was after rising unrest about Ireland’s border with Britain led to violence

Irish Europe minister Thomas Byrne yesterday warned there was a ‘danger of complete instability in Northern Ireland’ unless the post-Brexit issues are resolved. Mr Sefcovic said Brussels had made a ‘big move’ by offering to slash 80 per cent of checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, and urged Lord Frost to drop demands for the European Court of Justice to be stripped of its role overseeing the protocol.

Mr Sefcovic said ‘serious headway’ was needed this week to prevent possible disruption to the flow of medicines to Northern Ireland. Sefcovic stated that the EU is ready to amend its laws in order to facilitate it, but was looking for a solution to be reached with London.

Brexit effectively maintains Northern Ireland’s membership of the EU Single Market. Therefore, trade goods from Northern Ireland must be checked upon arrival in mainland UK.

A Government spokesman said last night the UK’s ‘preference is to find a consensual way forward’.