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After threats to rip up the Brexit deal, UK and EU hold crunch talks


An EU flag is flew alongside the British Union flag. This British Union flag is known in London as the Union Jack.

Jason Alden | Bloomberg Creative Photos | Getty Images

LONDON — The United Kingdom and the European Union are due to enter new negotiations on Friday in an attempt to avoid a looming trade war.

The U.K. officially left the EU in January 2020Since then, a variety of trade agreements have been put in place. The agreements are now in jeopardy as the U.K. complains of difficulties with implementing checks for goods that move from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The nature of this borderAfter-Brexit has been a major sticking point in negotiations between the U.K. government and the European Union. Great Britain is comprised of England, Scotland, and Wales but does not include Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland is a part of the U.K.

Last month, the European Commission (the executive arm of EU) proposed to modify certain sections of the trade agreement in order to facilitate these checks. EU officials complained since that Boris Johnson, the U.K. prime minister, is refusing to negotiate.

Analysts have indicated that the standoff could last for months.

Due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations, a Commission official said that Thursday’s proposals marked “a significant distinction” to the original trade agreement.

The official stated that “Northern Ireland needs stability and security, and we’re ready to work round the clock to get this.” To ensure that the talks have meaning, “the U.K. should take an initiative towards us.”

However, the U.K. is looking at the same problem in a different way than the EU.

David Frost, the U.K. Brexit Minister said that any checks of goods going from Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be ended. Instead, he thinks authorities should trust businesses to inform them if products will stay in Northern Ireland or continue to the Republic of Ireland — which is European territory.

Depending on whether the goods are going to enter Europe, different forms will be required by businesses.

But the European Commission said they don’t believe companies will keep them updated about trade flows. The unidentified official from the Commission stated that “What… does not work is to expect traders to tell me.” “We think we have to collect data in order to do that.”

Although the Commission is not averse to reducing paperwork, they do want to make it easier for businesses to ship goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Brussels worries that some products may not be up to European standards and end up on the EU’s Single Market via Northern Ireland.

The U.K. also wants to abolish the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over their trade deals. The EU has not yet made any concessions on this issue.

It’s all too much!

Amid this standoff, Frost has threatened to trigger so-called Article 16 — this would lead to the suspension of part of the current trade agreement on the basis that it is causing “economic, societal, or environmental difficulties.”

On Wednesday, he stated that this would be his only option if talks with the EU do not succeed.

The EU, for its part, has warned that it would retaliate in this scenario, which could lead to no trade deal — and a trade war.

“Senior EU officials in Brussels, but also across the continent’s 27 capitals, are extremely gloomy about the outlook and believe escalation in the form of a trade war — probably early in the new year — is now almost unavoidable,” analysts at consultancy group Eurasia said in a note Tuesday.