EU's Šefčovič: We are at a crossroads in relationship with UK

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In March, London made a decision to unilaterally extend a grace period that was given to supermarkets in Great Britain exporting agri-foods to Northern Ireland.

"Of course, as you would understand, the fact that I mentioned that we are at a crossroads means that our patience really is wearing very, very thin, and therefore we have to assess all options we have at our disposal", he said."I was talking about the legal action, I was talking about arbitration, and of course I'm talking about the cross-retaliation".

"When I meet Maros Sefcovic later today my message will be clear: time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the Protocol work", he said.

"EU citizens must have legal certainty if they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement with Britain".

"Glad @DavidGHFrost set out the issues and possible solutions in detail".

Preserving the delicate peace in Northern Ireland without allowing the United Kingdom a back door into the European Union's markets through the 310-mile (500 km) Irish land border was one of the most hard issues of the Brexit divorce.

"The Protocol has been a disaster both politically and economically".

"The Protocol has failed and has only delivered instability and higher prices for Northern Ireland".

"I look to the European Union to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities".

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"It is time to remove the internal United Kingdom barriers rather than talking about the outworkings of those barriers".

He added: "If Brussels is deaf to the problems, then our own government must act unilaterally to protect Northern Ireland".

The pro-Union community in Northern Ireland oppose the Protocol and the checks on goods arriving into ports as having created a border between the region and the rest of the UK.

Sefcovic's comments come ahead of crunch meetings in London tomorrow with Brexit minister David Frost, and follow weeks of sniping about the protocol.

"The U.K. agreed to the protocol as being the best solution", he said.

Meanwhile Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, expressed disappointment at the lack of substantial progress.

Brexit minister Lord Frost, flanked by Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt, sitting opposite European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, who is flanked by Principal Adviser, Service for the EU-UK Agreements (UKS) Richard Szostak, as he chairs the first EU-UK partnership council at Admiralty House in London.

The UK has taken forward our work to operate the Protocol since the beginning of the year, alongside huge efforts from the Northern Ireland Executive, unprecedented cooperation across a range of departments and agencies, and intensive work with businesses.

"This requires pragmatic controls which satisfy the EU's concerns, recognises the deeply integrated GB-NI supply chains and can be introduced in a workable manner over a sensible time frame". "What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us".

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