On Tuesday, talks to settle the EU-UK standoff over post-Brexit trade regulations for Northern Ireland continue in London, with the focus moving to a disagreement over the role of the European Court of Justice.
Allies of UK Brexit minister Lord David Frost used language that suggested there could be a possibility for a compromise on the subject, however, British officials said he remained firm in his position of demanding the abolition of the ECJ's supervision function in trade regulations.
According to media reports, Frost may favor a "Swiss-style" governance mechanism for the Northern Ireland protocol, which is part of the UK's exit deal and establishes the region's trade laws while attempting to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
An arbitration panel would be established under such a structure to resolve arguments concerning the protocol, with the ECJ retaining a role to interpret matters of EU law.
UK officials said Frost’s formal position had not changed. “The role of the European Court of Justice in resolving disputes between the UK and EU must end.” However, the phrasing left open the option of an arbitration tribunal resolving issues in the first instance.
Officials in the United Kingdom emphasized that it would still place the ECJ at the pinnacle of the system, giving it a major role in resolving conflicts.
According to the European Commission, the ECJ must continue to serve as the last court for the EU single market. The Northern Ireland protocol ensures that the area stays a part of the single market for goods.
The challenge is whether an arbitration procedure can be established that keeps the ECJ's position at arm's length enough to enable Frost to claim victory while still satisfying Brussels that its basic legal order has not been violated.
In the absence of a compromise, Frost has threatened to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, which empowers either party to suspend a portion of the trade regulations in the case of extreme disruption.