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Brussels will today offer to ‘massively’ reduce the number of border checks in Northern Ireland in a bid to finally resolve a rumbling post-Brexit row with the UK. 

The European Commission will publish proposals this afternoon which are designed to reduce trade friction at the border.

Up to 50 per cent of customs checks on goods would be lifted under the offer with an even higher proportion of checks ditched when it comes to checking meat and plants, according to The Telegraph.

However, while the EU is due to give ground on the issue of checks it is expected to dig in over a UK demand to end the European Court of Justice’s oversight of the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

Lord Frost, the UK’s Brexit chief, made clear in a speech in Lisbon, Portugal, yesterday that Britain wants European judges to be stripped of their role policing the protocol. He wants a system of international arbitration to be put in place instead.  

But EU sources have insisted ECJ oversight is a ‘red line’ while The Guardian reported that Lord Frost’s counterpart in Brussels, Maros Sefcovic, has not included any proposal on the role of the court in his new offer to the UK.   

However, Mr Sefcovic is expected to say that the EU’s proposals are not ‘a take it or leave it’ offer, opening the door to more discussions.  

Lord Frost has said the UK will ‘seriously, fully, and positively’ consider any EU proposals but stressed they must ‘deliver significant change’.  

EU 'enforcer' Maros Sefcovic will outline the Bloc's latest proposals today

EU 'enforcer' Maros Sefcovic will outline the Bloc's latest proposals today

EU ‘enforcer’ Maros Sefcovic will outline the Bloc’s latest proposals today

Lord Frost and the Slovak diplomat are set for weeks of intensive talks to thrash out a possible compromise.

One senior EU source said last night that the proposals will move towards the ‘light touch regime Britain had been seeking’. They added: ‘There will always be a certain level of control and checks because that is demanded by the single market, but they will be reduced to a level, which is the absolute minimum, that the EU system can bear.

‘I think for any reasonable person. They should be able to see that the remaining level of restrictions are extremely low, and shouldn’t pose any difficulties for importers or consumers in Northern Ireland.’

Lord Frost said the UK would consider whatever Mr Sefcovic put forward ‘seriously, fully and positively’

It comes after Lord Frost last night reissued a threat to suspend part of the Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland inside the bloc’s single market.

He said the arrangement was ‘shredding’ the Good Friday Agreement and had become ‘the biggest source of mistrust’ between Britain and the bloc.

He said the UK was ready to unilaterally trigger Article 16 and suspend the protocol unless it was ripped up and reformed.

He also demanded that the role of the European Court of Justice in policing the agreement – another part of the deal he struck with the EU – must end.

He also appeared to take a swipe at the EU’s leadership, saying it didn’t ‘always look like it wants us to succeed’. And he insisted it would ‘take two’ to repair the ‘fractious’ relationship. ‘Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity and that may include using Article 16 if necessary,’ he declared in a speech in Lisbon.

Brussels had previously claimed it will not consider any changes to the protocol.

Mr Sefcovic will unveil his ideas on animal health, medicines, customs procedures and governance today.

Lord Frost said the UK would consider whatever Mr Sefcovic put forward ‘seriously, fully and positively’ and insisted the UK’s proposals would not undermine the single market. Lord Frost’s demand to replace the role of the European Court of Justice in policing the protocol with a system of international arbitration was last night dismissed by a senior EU diplomat who said it would be ‘impossible’ for the EU to deliver on.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar yesterday said the demands would be ‘very hard to accept’, adding: ‘I don’t think we could ever have a situation where another court could decide what the rules of the single market are.’

Lord Frost took aim at French president Emmanuel Macron and his EU allies, saying Britain was ‘constantly faced with generalised accusations that [we] can’t be trusted and are not a reasonable international actor’.

He claimed that alienation between the two sides would be a ‘serious historical error’.

He said: ‘We just want friendly relations, free trade and the chance to do things our own way, all within the framework of a meaningful and robust Western alliance.

‘With this in mind, I do urge you to look at the image you are presenting to us. If there is a trust problem, as we are constantly told there is, it is not the responsibility of only one party.

‘At some point we must both try to raise our eyes to the horizon, look at the possibilities for better relations, and try to help each other solve problems, not create them.’

Any agreement between the two sides would need to be signed off by the 27 EU governments before becoming final.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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