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The UK wants to simplify the way products arrive by removing unnecessary bureaucracy that gives the impression of a customs barrier on the Irish Sea.
This includes ditching the customs code, which contains a wide range of information about the product and its origin.
The EU insists it stays, albeit simplified, because of the complexities of some products such as olive oil.
A Brussels official said: “There are some kinds – extra virgin olive oil – which are usually for restaurants and people in kitchens. There are other kinds of olive oil, which are used for processing.
“It’s only if you know with sufficient detail what kind of olive oil you’re dealing with, that you can then carry out a risk assessment about whether it’s likely to be consumed in NI, or have another purpose.”
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The EU’s stance was criticised by former Brexit minister Lord Frost who said: “At one end of our Continent, the EU is working with us on great matters of war and peace, life and death. At the other, it is worrying about the strategic risk from olive oil.
“Isn’t it time for the EU to be sensible and find a sustainable solution on the Protocol?”
The row erupted after talks on the dispute ended in stalemate. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said they wanted to find “durable solutions”.
A source close to MsTruss said: “Liz urged the EU to show more flexibility. She believes a deal is possible that protects the sovereignty of the UK and maintains the integrity of the EU single market.
“Liz thinks whatever our differences, the UK and EU believe in freedom, democracy and the sovereignty of nations. We should be able to get this done so we can focus on big issues.”
Negotiations are now expected to become more low key, with both sides mindful of the NI Assembly election in May.
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