Liz Truss tells EU: Stop 're-running past arguments' and resolve Northern Ireland Protocol row

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This will be the second time the pair have met since Ms Truss took over as the UK’s Brexit negotiator in December, after the shock resignation of Lord Frost - Aaron Chown
This will be the second time the pair have met since Ms Truss took over as the UK’s Brexit negotiator in December, after the shock resignation of Lord Frost - Aaron Chown

Liz Truss has urged the European Union to find “practical solutions” to resolve the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol rather than “re-running past arguments” ahead of a meeting with the bloc’s chief negotiator.

The Foreign Secretary will travel to Brussels on Monday for talks with Maros Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president, in a bid to break the deadlock in the dispute over Brexit trade rules in the province.

“Fundamentally this is about peace and stability in Northern Ireland. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, represent the UK or EU, the focus must be on protecting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and fixing the Protocol,” she said.

“That is my message in these negotiations. Rather than re-running past arguments, we need to focus on delivering for the people of Northern Ireland, finding practical solutions to problems on the ground and maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

This will be the second time the pair have met since Ms Truss took over as the UK’s Brexit negotiator in December, after the shock resignation of Lord Frost.

The Foreign Secretary has already told Mr Sefcovic that she wants to find a swift solution to end the disruption caused by the protocol and reset wider UK-EU relations. She believes resolving the row will free up the UK and EU to work together on geopolitical challenges, such as Russia and China.

Ahead of the talks, at the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, Mr Sefcovic has expressed concerns that he believes Ms Truss could use their Brexit negotiations to further a potential Conservative leadership challenge.

“It’s a question of whether she wants to reaffirm her reputation as a dealmaker or if she goes down the road of maintaining the impasse,” he told MEPs, according to a source present at a private briefing in the Belgian capital.

Mr Sefcovic believes holding off on a deal will improve her image with hardline Brexiteers in the Tory party, who are convinced the Foreign Secretary will adopt a softer approach to dealing with Brussels than her predecessor Lord Frost.

And before EU-UK relations can be reset, Mr Sefcovic will demand reassurances from Ms Truss that she will not renege on the terms of any deal on the province.

“We need to rebuild trust and this is done through respecting our agreements, which have only recently been signed and ratified,” an EU official told the Telegraph.

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland continues to follow some EU Single Market rules to prevent a hard Irish border, and British imports face checks to ensure they meet EU standards, which has created a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The UK argues the trade checks – which Unionists have denounced as driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – are having a chilling effect on trade.

In October, the EU offered to remove up to 80 per cent of the checks in return for bolstered market surveillance.

Talks to cut red tape resumed this week, without any significant breakthrough expected by officials on both sides.

Officials close to the talks described the long-running stand-off as another "Groundhog Day" in the Brexit negotiations.

They said that Britain's negotiating position has not changed since Ms Truss took over from Lord Frost, who quit Cabinet last month in anger over Covid measures.

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