Liz Truss issues 'urgent' Brexit deadline warning before Sefcovic speech

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The Foreign Secretary told Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice President, Brexit talks are in a “very difficult” position and must be resolved “in short order”. The pair have been holding talks about the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has caused controversy in the country due to restrictions on goods and trade coming in and out of Great Britain. Mr Šefčovič will speak on Tuesday about updates on Brexit talks with Ms Truss.

After discussions between Ms Truss and Mr Šefčovič, both said there was a “constructive atmosphere” over resolving the Brexit row.

In a joint statement, they said they had “reaffirmed their shared desire for a positive EU-UK relationship underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy, and co-operation on common global challenges”.

Ms Truss also said to broadcasters: “I’m absolutely determined to protect political stability and peace in Northern Ireland.

“I want to work constructively with the EU to be able to achieve that and we need to do it in short order. We’ve agreed to have more intensive talks.”

When asked however whether the end of February could be a deadline for talks, Ms Truss stressed on Monday the need for urgent progress.

She said: “We need to make as much progress as we can in the next few weeks.

“The situation in Northern Ireland is very difficult, we want goods to be able to flow freely that’s why we need to make urgent progress.”

Mr Šefčovič continued to suggest the Protocol is the “one and only solution found jointly” to protect the Good Friday peace agreement.

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Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney said the mood is “quite good” after talks between Ms Truss and Mr Šefčovič.

He said on Tuesday morning: “Everyone is conscious that February is important in the context of these discussions, and I think that hasn’t changed.

“I think it’s important to really welcome Liz Truss’s personal engagement in these discussions.

”She travelled directly from Australia to Brussels to meet Maroš Šefčovič today, and I think that says a lot in terms of her interest in trying to advance things.”

However, after meeting with Mr Šefčovič, Mr Coveney added: “When I speak to businesses in Northern Ireland, what they want is a reduction in checks.

“They want differentiation between goods that we can show are staying in Northern Ireland in terms of purchase on consumption, and goods that otherwise might be coming south across the border into the EU.”

It comes as Raoul Ruparel, who advised former Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit, said while the “atmosphere and tone has improved”, neither the EU or UK had shown any willingness to compromise.

He said: “I’m increasingly of the view that these discussions will be overtaken by events regardless of what is or what is not agreed by the two sides.”

It also comes ahead of Stormont elections in Northern Ireland in May, which Mr Ruparel said could make an agreement tougher.

He said: “Sinn Fein look likely to be largest party, with response from unionist parties very unpredictable.

“At best we may not see an NI Executive being formed for some time, at worst the institutional power-sharing arrangements under GF/Belfast Agreement could be thrown into doubt.”



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