European Union and UK officials are embarking on a process of technical and political talks which could result in a new joint document on resolving the outstanding issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol, RTÉ News understands.

Diplomats have told RTÉ News that technical talks have been inching forward positively and that the process could be given a political boost by the UK's lead minister David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic as early as this week.

While the rioting in Northern Ireland has gripped the headlines, there is a technical and political process underway involving London and Brussels.

On 31 March, the UK sent a document to the European Commission spelling out its views on the outstanding issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

While the Commission believes it fell short on some points, there was a view that the UK was serious about implementing the protocol.

The UK government has demanded a large degree of flexibility from the EU, but EU diplomats say that if London continues to show it is implementing the protocol, then flexibility would be forthcoming.

It is understood both sides are working towards a joint document. Although the document could take several weeks, a virtual meeting between Mr Frost and Mr Sefcovic later this week or early next week would provide the process with political impetus.

It is also understood the European Commission has informally raised the idea of a joint EU UK veterinary agreement which, officials say, could do away with up to 90% of the checks and controls on the Irish Sea.

However, both sides remain far apart on what kind of alignment with EU food safety rules the UK would have to agree.

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