Downing Street has dropped proposals that Brussels could block food exports from the UK to Northern Ireland as it signaled optimism about the trade deal negotiations with the EU.
Boris Johnson had used the threat of a “blockade” in the Irish Sea to justify the need to assume powers that could violate international law by violating the provisions of the Brexit Divorce Agreement.
Brussels always vehemently denied that it was hindering food transport by refusing to grant status to the UK third country, and No. 10 on Friday seemed to accept that it was no longer the case.
When asked about a report indicating that Downing Street is increasingly optimistic that an agreement can be reached, a spokesman said: “We have had useful exchanges with the EU over the past few weeks and progress has been made in certain areas .
“For example, the EU has now confirmed that normal processes are followed for listings in third countries.
“However, we have always been aware that there are still some challenging areas. Therefore, we continue to work to reach an agreement and look forward to the next round of negotiations in Brussels.”
State aid rules and access to fisheries remain two main areas of contention.
Mr Johnson had just told MPs last week that the EU had not taken the “revolver” off the table on the “extreme” and “unreasonable” position on food.
He argued that his controversial UK Single Market Act was needed to prevent Brussels from dismantling the UK as trade negotiations threatened to stall.
Amid widespread outrage and a Tory uprising, the prime minister was forced to compromise to give MPs a voice before the government could use powers that would violate the withdrawal agreement he signed with the EU last year.
When asked about the obvious optimism, the spokesman for the EU Commission, Daniel Ferrie, stated in a briefing in Brussels that the negotiator Michel Barnier “remains neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but is determined to reach an agreement”.
Mr Barnier was in London for informal talks on Wednesday before official negotiations resume in Brussels next week as the time for an agreement dwindles.
It will take less than 100 days for the transition period, during which the UK will remain in the single market and continue to follow EU law, to end on December 31st.