By David Hughes, PA Political Editor
Significant differences remain between the UK Government and the European Union over the operation of the Brexit deal in Northern Ireland, No 10 has said.
Talks have continued between the two sides, with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and Brexit minister Lord Frost picking up the phone on Friday.
But Downing Street said there are still major hurdles to be crossed in order to resolve the issues around the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Anger at the post-Brexit trading arrangements, which have effectively created economic barriers with the rest of the UK, have been cited as one of the factors behind violence that has erupted in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland in recent days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said “constructive” talks have been held with the EU about the arrangements.
“Technical engagement with the EU in relation to the protocol has continued in recent days,” he said.
“(Maros) Sefcovic and Lord Frost spoke on Friday over the phone and we are in regular contact at all levels.
“The discussions have been constructive but there are still significant differences that need to be resolved.
“Both the EU and the UK are engaging with business, civil society and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland to understand the issues that they are facing.”
The Government is committed to working through the issues to “restore confidence on the ground” in Northern Ireland, respecting the views of the communities and the Good Friday Agreement.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, has resulted in additional checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to ensure they comply with EU rules.
NI Protocol graffiti in Belfast. Pic: PA.