News analysis

The EU is leaving the door open for an NI protocol compromise – what will the UK do?

How to solve a problem like the Northern Ireland protocol? It is a question that we are no closer to finding an answer to, although the EU’s Brexit chief, Maros Sefcovic, is the latest to add to the back-and-forth between the bloc and the UK government.

Sefcovic has said he is open to the idea of reducing physical customs checks across the Irish Sea to potentially just “a couple of lorries a day” in a bid to break the impasse. He added, in an interview with the Financial Times, that there was almost no difference between the UK’s demand for “no checks” and the EU’s offer of “minimum checks, done in an invisible manner”.

According to respected Brexit analyst Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group, senior UK officials believe that the offer “doesn’t go far enough” and “isn’t particularly new”. But Sefcovic’s remarks have revealed the kind of practical changes that Brussels envisages from a possible compromise deal.

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