EU awaits counterproposals from UK in Brexit standoff



Raf Casert | NBC News

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union was awaiting a firm counterproposal from the United Kingdom on Friday to ease a standoff over how to deal with Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Both sides are fighting over differences in how to regulate trade in Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. but also belongs to the EU’s huge single market in a Byzantine deal that proved essential in the Brexit divorce negotiations.

Both sides recognize that deal is far from perfect and have been negotiating how to improve the movement of goods to Northern Ireland from Britain without giving London unfettered backdoor passage to the market of the 27-nation EU.

While EU Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic said there was a “change in tone” for the better in London, he added that last month’s EU compromise proposal to cut down on red tape between Britain and Northern Ireland needed to be reciprocated.

“We hope that action will follow the words,” he said Friday.

His UK counterpart, David Frost, insisted that “there are a large number of issues that need to be fixed if we’re going to resolve this problem,” adding that “there are still really quite significant gaps.”

Negotiations have dragged on for a month, with Britain threatening to suspend parts of the legally binding divorce agreement between the two sides if no solution is found soon.

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