• UK pushes ahead with plans to scrap some Northern Ireland trade rules
  • Trade rules agreed by EU and UK in Brexit divorce deal
  • Fix has implemented an efficient border for goods in the Irish Sea
  • Last substantive talks between EU and UK on Northern Ireland in February

BRUSSELS, June 29 (Reuters) – The European Commission is open to negotiating trade deals for Northern Ireland with Britain, but only if talks are constructive and do not resume with an outcome already set by London, a said a senior EU official on Wednesday.

“Our doors are open for negotiations but it must be constructive negotiations and it cannot be done in a way that we negotiate but the result is given in advance,” said the vice-president of the Commission, Maros Sefcovic, at a press conference in Brussels.

Sefcovic gave a speech in London later on Wednesday, two days after legislation allowing Britain to scrap some of Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade rules passed the first of many parliamentary tests. Read more

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Sefcovic told his UK audience that the UK bill was not only a breach of international law, but would lead to “constant uncertainty”.

“Put simply: it wouldn’t work,” he said, with UK ministers able to change the rules on a whim and a dual regulatory regime burying businesses in bureaucracy.

The UK government also needed to be honest with its own public, Sefcovic said. Minimal checks can work for goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, he said, but “zero checks is not an option”.

The Commission’s proposals to reduce documentation and customs controls would, according to Sefcovic, bring stability and legal certainty.

They would also prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, which was avoided by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market.

The solution, agreed as part of Britain’s exit from the EU, means goods can flow easily from there to Ireland, but effectively places a border in the Irish Sea between the UK mainland and his province, which angered some pro-British trade unionists.

London accuses Brussels of applying the rules on trade in goods in a brutal way.

Sefcovic said substantive solutions to the difficulties were “on the table”, but political will was needed on Britain’s part to move forward.

The commissioner responsible for EU-UK relations has also warned Britain against cutting EU regulations which could end EU recognition of financial services, data and some food products British.

“More divergence means more friction and less trading – simple as that,” Sefcovic said.

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Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Charlotte Van Campenhout; edited by Foo Yun Chee and Mark Heinrich

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