The EU has rejected calls from the UK to rewrite post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.
The rules are aimed at avoiding a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, a key part of a 1998 peace deal to end years of sectarian violence.
But the absence of a border complicates the checking of goods coming into the EU from the north, necessary to ensure they meet the bloc”s standards.
London and Brussels agreed on rules that saw checks at ports instead, essentially making a border in the Irish Sea between the UK and Northern Ireland.
But more than six months since Brexit took effect, the UK is losing patience with the rules it signed up to.
“Put very simply, we cannot go on as we are,” Brexit minister David Frost said on Wednesday in the House of Lords.
The UK government now wants a major rewrite of the rules, referred to as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The main point of contention is related to food products. EU’s food safety rules don’t allow items such as chilled meat to be imported from countries that are not part of the union.
Since there are no restrictions along the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border, products such as sausages and burgers can easily enter the EU market.
As it stands, England, Wales and Scotland will be unable to send these food items to Northern Ireland once the grace period comes to an end on September 30, 2021.
Lord Frost insisted that there was a need to find a “new balance” and that “we should return to a normal treaty framework similar to other international arrangements” in order to resolve the matter.
“We will continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today,” said the European Commission’s Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.
“We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the Protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol.”