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Trade war imminent? EU rejects UK's plan to scrap Brexit deal in Northern Ireland row

James Smith, an economist at ING told CNBC: “With trust between both sides clearly low, the bigger near-term question is whether further legal steps are taken by Brussels that eventually culminate in tariffs – and in a negative scenario, some form of a mini trade war.”

Mr Lewis called for the EU to reconsider. Writing in the Irish Times he said: “The situation is now urgent. The UK and Ireland have a huge, and very direct, interest in finding solutions here.

“But we need constructive and ambitious discussions with the EU which deal with the actual reality.”

He added: “We need to find a way forward, a new balance of arrangements, adapted to the practical reality of what we have seen since January, and based on the common interests we all share.”

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