UK and EU to continue post-Brexit talks on Northern Ireland

VIOLENCE IN STREETS: Police officers are seen next to fire during a protest in the Loyalist Tigers Bay Area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 9. Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

The U.K. and European Union will keep talking about the future of Northern Ireland next week, as negotiations over changes to the post-Brexit settlement drag on.

"We would still like to find a negotiated solution," Britain's Brexit Minister David Frost said in a tweet following his latest weekly meeting with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, after another round of talks between officials.

"But the gap between our positions is still significant and we are ready to use Article 16," he said, referring to the mechanism for unilaterally suspending parts of the Brexit divorce deal concerning Northern Ireland. This is a threat Frost keeps raising but has yet to follow through on.

Tensions between the two sides over Northern Ireland appear to have calmed in recent weeks, with the U.K. saying it will continue negotiating with the EU for as long as talks continue to be constructive. Many in the EU had feared that Britain was going to imminently walk away from the negotiations, which could have precipitated a trade war.

Sefcovic said the latest talks focused on the supply of medicines into Northern Ireland, and that a "decisive push" is needed in the discussions. Progress was made on the supply of generic drugs but there is no final agreement, and problems must be solved in the coming weeks if there is to be an agreed solution, according to a U.K. official familiar with the talks.

Discussions over customs were constructive in the latest round of talks and will continue next week, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Frost and Sefcovic are due to meet again next Friday.

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