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Whitehall gossip from Politico.eu:

Brexit's third act gets underway with a familiar plot line -- Northern Ireland

But officials insist that the relationship between Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and his opposite number Maroš Šefčovič is significantly warmer than that between their predecessors David Frost and Michel Barnier.

"Their personal relationship has always been good," a Whitehall official said. "They get on well, but that doesn't mean they inherently agree on a way through. [Šefčovič] is constructive and solution-orientated, but certainly not a pushover."

Gove entourage expecting a sweetheart deal from Šefčovič (more and longer waivers), after not getting cake from "robotic" Barnier:

Gove has demanded tweaks to the trade rules on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to deal with border disruption, and he wants waivers on post-Brexit checks to be extended for nearly two years.

That may be pushing it, but officials on the U.K. side view Šefčovič as someone they can do business with, in contrast to Barnier, who London frequently criticized as taking a robotic approach to the talks.

Šefčovič is having none of it (with a little push from the EU ambassadors, reportedly):

Šefčovič offered a tough response to Gove on the eve of the meeting, with a letter of his own rejecting calls for tweaks to the protocol operations, at least until the U.K. complies fully with existing rules.

He pointed to a number of areas where Britain was falling short. He added that "blanket derogations" on customs processes for meat products, export health certificates and parcels "cannot be agreed beyond what the protocol foresees already," while flexibility on seed potatoes and other plant products would entail the U.K. aligning with EU rules.

Still stuck in "Groundhog Brexit".

by Bernard on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 07:20:02 PM EST

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