UK and EU agree deal ‘in principle’ on Northern Ireland protocol

8 December 2020, 13:27 | Updated: 8 December 2020, 13:57

The UK and EU have agreed all issues on the UK/NI protocol
The UK and EU have agreed all issues on the UK/NI protocol. Picture: Twitter

By Asher McShane

The EU and the UK have agreed a deal 'in principle' on the issue of the Northern Ireland border among other outstanding issues on the Withdrawal Agreement, Michael Gove said today.

Mr Gove announced the development today posting online: "Delighted to announce agreement in principle on all issues in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee."

It means the government will withdraw controversial measures in the UK Internal Markets Bill which could see the Brexit divorce deal torn up.

"In view of these mutually agreed solutions, the UK will withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the Taxation Bill," the Government said in a statement. 

A joint statement setting out progress in the talks led by Michael Gove and Maros Sefcovic said: "Following intensive and constructive work over the past weeks by the EU and the UK, the two co-chairs can now announce their agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland."

The agreement covers issues including border checks on animal and plant products, the supply of medicines and deliveries of chilled meats and other food products to supermarkets.

There was also "clarification" on the application of rules on state subsidies.

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen will meet later this week to try and solve remaining issues on trade.

Earlier today the Prime Minister warned that talks with the European Union on a trade deal were proving "very tricky".

Mr Johnson said he was still hopeful about reaching a deal but it was proving "very, very difficult" to make progress.

Talks have faltered on the issues of fishing rights, the "level playing field" measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies, and the way that any deal would be governed.

In a message to Brussels, the Prime Minister said: "Our friends have just got to understand the UK has left the EU in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things.

"There is also the issue of fisheries where we are a long way apart still.

"But hope springs eternal, I will do my best to sort it out if we can."

Mr Johnson's trip to Brussels is seen as a make-or-break moment for the process after months of talks led by Lord Frost and the EU's Michel Barnier.

Downing Street said Lord Frost would return to London later on Tuesday to discuss the remaining differences in reaching a free trade deal with Mr Johnson.

Then "over the course of the coming days" the Prime Minister will go to Brussels, Number 10 said, though no meetings are planned with the leaders of either France or Germany.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that there may be a point where it is "time to draw stumps" and accept that a deal is impossible.

"There are just limits beyond which no sensible, independent government or country could go and people have got to understand that."

He again insisted the UK will "prosper mightily" with or without a trade deal with the European Union, despite grim warnings from the budget watchdog and the governor of the Bank of England about the impact.