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Liz Truss urges EU to find ‘practical solutions’ over NI Protocol row

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British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Photo: PA

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Photo: PA

PA

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Photo: PA

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged the EU to find “practical solutions” over the Northern Ireland Protocol row and to stop “re-running past arguments” ahead of a meeting in Brussels.

Ms Truss told the Daily Telegraph her message for the European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic ahead of their meeting on Monday is centred around finding “practical solutions” to the issues of the protocol.

“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 told the newspaper.

“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.”

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Monday’s meeting will be the second time the pair have met, after Mr Sefcovic travelled to Kent for talks earlier this month.

According to the paper, Ms Truss wants a solution to bring an end to the protocol row with the EU, with a renewed focus instead on tackling wider foreign policy challenges such as the emerging crisis with Russia.

The UK Government is seeking substantial changes to the protocol - which forms part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement - arguing that it is hampering the free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and damaging community relations.

The protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.

Unionists have consistently been pressuring for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

The meeting comes amid the latest LucidTalk opinion polling for the Belfast Telegraph showing considerable support among unionist voters for scrapping the protocol, a view proposed by the DUP.

Asked for their view of DUP tactics on the protocol, 63% of those polled believe the party should be prepared to crash the Stormont institutions over it.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has repeatedly threatened to withdraw his party’s ministers from the Stormont Executive if the UK Government does not act on the protocol.

However, he “paused” the threat earlier this month after confirming he would give Ms Truss time to negotiate with the EU.

According to the Daily Telegraph, an EU source expressed concern Ms Truss could hold out on a deal with the trading bloc over building a potential Conservative Party 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,” the source told the paper.

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


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