independent-Brussels was “preparing for the worst” over Brexit on Wednesday after the UK signalled the EU’s offer to scrap up to 80 per cent of checks on goods entering Northern Ireland was not enough to resolve the bitter dispute over the Irish border.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic called on London to engage “earnestly and intensively” with the proposals, inviting Brexit minister David Frost for renewed talks on the Northern Ireland protocol from Friday.
But the UK said that, while Lord Frost would look “seriously and constructively” at the EU package, talks over the coming weeks must also take in his demand for the removal of European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction over the deal.
A British source told The Independent: “Without new arrangements on governance the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive. It is a fundamental issue which needs to be addressed if the protocol is to be put onto a sustainable footing.”
The scene was set for a Christmas showdown, with observers unsure whether Mr Sefcovic’s initiative had provided enough “wriggle room” for Mr Frost and Mr Johnson to back down from their hardline stance.
Meanwhile, UK businesses urged Boris Johnson to pull back from the brink, warning that his threat to tear up the protocol could trigger punitive tariffs on British products – including 10 per cent on car exports to the EU.