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Brexit: Brussels hints talks won’t include stripping EU judges from NI Protocol

Arnaud DEVILLERS/European Union

By Sam Blewett, PA Deputy Political Editor

Brussels has signalled it is unwilling to cave to UK demands to discuss removing oversight by European judges from the Northern Ireland Protocol as post-Brexit negotiations continue.

The EU said a “very intense period of discussions” has begun but suggested they may not include the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Stripping the ECJ from the Brexit agreement has emerged as a key demand from the Government as it seeks to ease trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.

But the EU’s proposals to slash red tape on Irish Sea trade fell short of the demand from Brexit minister Lord Frost, who is taking part in meetings in Brussels.

European Commission spokeswoman Arianna Podesta insisted the package proposed by the EU last week is extensive and that talks would not go much further than it.

Asked whether talks will include the ECJ this week, Ms Podesta told reporters in Brussels: “We are following up on the package that we have proposed on October 13 – it is a far-reaching package.”

Lord Frost is meeting with Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president who has been acting as the EU’s post-Brexit negotiator.

Mr Sefcovic welcomed that “both sides have agreed to engage intensively and constructively at both expert and political level”, according to a statement from the commission.

“The EU seeks to focus on the areas that matter most to Northern Irish people and businesses, and where we can find common ground,” it added.

“Swift joint solutions would bring the stability, certainty and predictability that Northern Ireland deserves, ultimately protecting the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions.”

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