Progress has been made in talks between the European Union and Britain on post-Brexit trade issues affecting Northern Ireland, according to the EU official in charge of the issue.

Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefcovic said that solutions can be found if London redoubles its efforts.

The two sides agreed last week to intensify efforts to resolve difficulties over trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"We had some progress on Friday," Mr Šefcovic said during an interview with the BBC.

"I'm sure that if (Brexit Minister David) Frost and the UK would double their efforts. we can resolve all the outstanding issues to the satisfaction of the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

During weeks of verbal sparring, London has repeatedly threatened to invoke Article 16, an emergency brake in the Northern Ireland chapter of the Brexit deal, a move that could trigger a full-blown trade war between the EU and Britain.

Mr Šefcovic last week welcomed a change of tone from the British side and called for that to translate into compromise in the talks about the nitty gritty of the trading arrangements.

Since leaving the EU last year Britain has delayed the introduction of some planned border checks that were designed to avoid the need for a hard frontier between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

London says the checks are disproportionate and threaten the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as they create a barrier to trade within the UK, something which is intolerable to the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

The EU says checks are needed to avoid goods entering its single market from the UK side without any controls.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that it is encouraging that this week's Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations are continuing into next week.

Brexit Minister David Frost

He told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that now is the time to give both sides time and space to continue discussions following a difficult year.

The minister added that there was a window between now and Christmas to get issues resolved and build consensus and the Irish Government was supportive.

On the question of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, Mr Coveney said he did not think a compromise could be reached as the court must be the final arbitrator on EU law and EU regulations.

He said he did not see how the EU could outsource the court’s functions outside of the EU and he said that was not a realistic proposition.

US Senators write to Johnson over protocol concerns

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Two US Senators have written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressing their concerns over the ongoing Nothern Ireland Protocol negotiations between the UK and the EU.

The letter was sent by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

"As close friends and allies, we hope that your concerns can be addressed through these negotiations. We also wish to communicate the strong interest from Congress in ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in any future arrangements," the letter stated.

"We are concerned, however, that a failure to reach a negotiated solution could result in an escalation of tensions that may adversely affect the Good Friday Agreement and the communities of Northern Ireland," the senators wrote.

"As you know, the United States played an important role forging this peace and ensuring it endures is a priority for our country," the letter concluded.

The letter was sent ahead of a visit to Belfast and London by Senator Chris Murphy.

"I'm traveling back to London and Belfast to express Congress’s bipartisan interest in the protection of the Good Friday Agreement as part of discussions over the Northern Ireland Protocol. I’m looking forward to meeting with government and civil society leaders to discuss these issues and other important national security matters," Senator Murphy said.


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Additional reporting: Brian O'Donovan