EU's Sefcovic discusses Northern Ireland Protocol with UK foreign secretary

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Eu's Sefcovic Discusses Northern Ireland Protocol With Uk Foreign Secretary Eu's Sefcovic Discusses Northern Ireland Protocol With Uk Foreign Secretary
It was the European Commission vice president's first call with Britain's new foreign secretary James Cleverly (pictured). Photo: PA Images
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Dominic McGrath, PA

RU and UK officials will “meet soon” following a call on Friday between the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and Britain's foreign secretary James Cleverly to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The call with Mr Sefcovic was Mr Clevely's first since being appointed by Britain's new prime minister Liz Truss, coming amid a ongoing row between the EU and UK over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Talks have stalled in recent months and relations between London and Brussels remain at a low ebb, after the British government angered the EU with plans to rip up swathes of the protocol.

In a tweet following the call, Mr Sefcovic said that “teams will meet soon”, raising hopes in some quarters for progress in talks between the two sides.

Mr Sefcovic called it a “good conversation”, adding: “Both sides agree to look for solutions around the Protocol, to bring predictability & certainty to people in Northern Ireland.”

He said that the EU is “committed to joint efforts”, adding: “Teams will meet soon. James & I will stay in contact.”

Mr Cleverly, who has only been in the role a matter of weeks, offered similarly warm words after the call.

The pair are expected to speak again in a couple of weeks.

“Good to speak to Maros Sefcovic today on important shared issues including the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Mr Clevely said.

“We agreed we want to look for solutions to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. We will speak again soon.”

The protocol, signed by former UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s government, effectively keeps Northern Ireland aligned with many EU single market rules to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, therefore requiring some checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.

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Despite elections in May, there is currently no sitting powersharing executive in the North after the DUP withdrew its first minister in February in protest over the protocol.

While in her former role as Britain's foreign secretary, Ms Truss introduced legislation which effectively tears up parts of the agreement, worsening relations with the EU.

Both sides have said a negotiated outcome is the preferred option amid hopes that some form of compromise can be reached.

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday, Ms Truss said her government remains open to a “negotiated settlement”, but said the situation cannot be allowed to “drift”.

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