The UK Government and the EU have reiterated their commitment to finding “joint solutions” to differences around the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris held a video call with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Friday.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU in 2019 as a way to unlock the logjam over securing a Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Designed as a means to keep the Irish land border free-flowing, it moved regulatory and customs checks on goods to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Many unionists in Northern Ireland are vehemently opposed to arrangements they claim have weakened the region’s place within the union.
The DUP is currently blocking the functioning of powersharing at Stormont and has made clear it will not allow devolution to return unless major changes to the protocol are delivered.
The EU and UK are engaged in intensive negotiations amid mounting speculation that a deal is on the cards to reduce the red tape on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Just spoken to @marossefcovic again with @chhcalling.
I reiterated our determination to find solutions to the full range of challenges on the NI Protocol, working together with the EU.
We will speak again soon.
Teams continue to work hard on finding a way forward.
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) February 10, 2023Advertisement
Following the meeting, Mr Cleverly said both sides were working hard on finding a way forward.
He tweeted: “I reiterated our determination to find solutions to the full range of challenges on the NI Protocol, working together with the EU.
“We will speak again soon.
“Teams continue to work hard on find a way forward.”
Held a productive video call with Foreign Secretary @JamesCleverly and NI Secretary @chhcalling. We took stock of our ongoing work on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. Our objective is clear - joint solutions to practical concerns in NI.
Hard work but time well invested. pic.twitter.com/JXHaz6rEyoAdvertisement
— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) February 10, 2023
Mr Sefcovic said it had been a “productive” call.
He tweeted: “We took stock of our ongoing work on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
“Our objective is clear – joint solutions to practical concerns in NI
“Hard work, but time well invested.”