Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the European Commission’s vice president have reiterated their “full commitment” to the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol following talks in London.
A joint statement said Mr Gove and Maros Sefcovic had a “frank but constructive discussion” on Thursday evening, in which they agreed to “spare no effort” in implementing solutions.
The two politicians agreed to convene the joint committee tasked with implementation of the protocol no later than February 24 to provide “the necessary political steer”.
The protocol requires regulatory and customs checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but it has caused disruption to trade since it came into force on January 1, with various grace periods in operation.
Unionists in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about the arrangements, insisting they have driven an economic wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Trade problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol need permanent solutions, not sticking plasters, Arlene Foster has said.
The DUP leader and Stormont First Minister restated her demand for the protocol governing GB-to-NI trade post-Brexit to be ditched after the UK and EU reiterated their “full commitment” to the new arrangements.
“Northern Ireland needs freed from the Protocol,” she tweeted. “We must have unfettered trade between GB & NI. It’s time for the Government to step up & protect this part of the United Kingdom with permanent solutions, not sticking plasters. EU must recognise the absence of unionist support.”
Adding to the debate Michel Barnier said: “The difficulties on the island of Ireland are caused by Brexit, not by the Protocol,” adding that “the Protocol is the solution”.
The Brexit negotiator added: “Many of these consequences have not been correctly explained, they have been generally underestimated.”
“Brexit means Brexit,” he told a European Business Summit event, poking fun at ex PM Theresa May, who famously used the slogan repeatedly.
It has now been calculated that the Brexit trade deal will cut around £45bn over two years from the UK economy, according to a Brussels analysis in the Independent.
The PM Boris Johnson refused to carry out his own study, into the potential costs to the economy from leaving the EU.
Brexit is likely to cut UK output by about 2.25 per cent by the end of 2022 compared within the EU. The EU will take a 0.5% hit during the same period, as there appear to be no economic winners from the divorce deal.
The UK annual gross domestic product (GDP) stands at near to £2 trillion, so such a loss would be equivalent to around £45bn over the next two years. A huge figure which will leave a hole in public finances.