DUBLIN, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Britain and the European Union are working towards concluding talks on revising post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, and a deal is possible but by no means guaranteed in the coming days, Ireland’s prime minister said. Saturday.
Momentum has been building for weeks towards a deal to ease checks on trade introduced under the Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed arrangements to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland when Britain leaves the EU in 2020.
Lawmakers from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party are said to be in parliament on Monday, a sign that a deal is imminent.
“I think the talks on reforming the protocol are moving towards a conclusion. Of course the deal is not done yet, but I think we are moving towards a conclusion,” Leo Varadkar told reporters.
“Agreement is likely in the next few days, but by no means guaranteed … there is still a gap to be closed,” Varadkar said, adding that there is ongoing engagement between the UK government and the European Commission.
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Varadkar, who played a key role when the protocol was agreed in 2019, encouraged politicians in London, Brussels and Northern Ireland to “go the extra mile”.
While a deal would end a two-year standoff between Britain and the EU, Sunak faces a battle with pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers and pro-British Northern Irish politicians to implement the deal.
Polls show a majority of Northern Irish voters – who opposed Brexit – support the idea of the protocol, although the province’s assembly and devolved government have not sat for a year due to union opposition.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the region’s largest pro-British party, has said it will not end its boycott of parliament until all checks on goods from Britain to Northern Ireland are lifted.
Reporting by Patrick Halp Editing by Mark Potter and Frances Kerry
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