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World

UK minister Gove heads to Brussels amid Brexit deadlock

  • The planned talks were confirmed by Sefcovic, who said he and Gove would discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol under Britain's EU divorce treaty.
07 Dec 2020

LONDON: British minister Michael Gove headed to Brussels on Monday to tackle post-Brexit trade issues relating to Northern Ireland, the government said.

Gove will meet European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic as the government prepares to re-submit a draft law with clauses that would strip the EU from having a say on post-Brexit trade involving Northern Ireland.

The meeting -- separate to deadlocked talks on a wider trade deal -- was seen by commentators as laying the ground for Britain to potentially row back on the contentious clauses, if agreement can be found on the deal.

The planned talks were confirmed by Sefcovic, who said he and Gove would discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol under Britain's EU divorce treaty.

"We are working hard to make sure it is fully operational as of 1 January 2021," the EU official tweeted.

Britain formally left the EU in January, nearly four years after a referendum, but is bound by most of its rules until the end of the year.

As the two sides battle over their future relationship, Britain admits the Northern Ireland provisions in the internal market bill violate the divorce treaty, but are needed as a "legal safety net" in case of no deal.

The UK parliament's upper House of Lords has voted to remove the offending clauses, but the government says it will restore them in the House of Commons when the bill is re-submitted later on Monday.

The EU says the clauses are a fundamental breach of trust and imperil the wider trade negotiation and has taken Britain to court over the issue.