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EU rebuffs UK attempts to accelerate trade talks

The EU has rebuffed attempts by the British government to intensify and accelerate negotiations in order to reach a future trade agreement by mid-October, RTÉ News understands.

The ninth round of future relationship negotiations gets underway tomorrow in Brussels, with both sides at odds over the prospects for a breakthrough.

Late last week Downing Street briefed journalists that there was growing optimism about progress in the future relationship negotiations, with just weeks of talks remaining.

It is understood that during informal discussions the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost pushed his opposite number Michel Barnier for the process to enter, as soon as possible, the so-called tunnel, the final period of sealed negotiations preceding a future relationship treaty.

However, two senior sources have told RTÉ News that Mr Barnier refused to agree to such an intensification for two reasons.

First, the EU believes the UK has still not made sufficient concessions on the so-called level playing field, including the question of state aid, and fisheries.

Secondly, Brussels believes the deadline is the end of October, not 14 October, the deadline that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set, which is when EU leaders will meet for a summit.

Meanwhile, London and Brussels will discuss the controversy over the Northern Ireland Protocol at a meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee in Brussels later this morning.

The European Commission is expected to push the UK for more details on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is supposed to come into effect on 1 January.

Brussels is concerned that the construction of Border Control Posts, required by the Protocol, has not yet started. 

London, however, wants the EU side to commit to simplifying some of the checks and controls the Protocol requires on goods moving from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and in the other direction.

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