Coveney to meet British foreign secretary for North protocol talks

Liz Truss has taken charge of Brexit negotiations following David Frost’s resignation

Liz Truss has indicated  she will not deviate from Britain’s new position, which is to seek an ‘interim’ agreement on practical issues . Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Liz Truss has indicated she will not deviate from Britain’s new position, which is to seek an ‘interim’ agreement on practical issues . Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will meet Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss in London on Thursday for talks on the Northern Ireland protocol and foreign policy issues.

The meeting comes less than three weeks after Ms Truss took charge of Brexit negotiations following David Frost’s resignation and ahead of her first meeting next week with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic.

Hopes of agreement between London and Brussels rose last month after Britain dropped its demand for the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to be removed from the protocol as a precondition for any deal. Ms Truss has indicated that she will not deviate from Britain’s new position, which is to seek an “interim” agreement on practical issues such as customs and regulatory checks and procedures.

Mr Coveney and Ms Truss first met in 2014 when they were both agriculture ministers but they have not met in person since Ms Truss became foreign secretary last September. Irish Government sources suggested that Thursday’s meeting offered an opportunity for the two ministers to establish a good working relationship on Brexit and the protocol.

When Ms Truss hosts Mr Sefcovic next week at Chevening House, the foreign secretary’s grace and favour home, she is expected to present what British sources described as “constructive” proposals to ease the trade friction between Britain and Northern Ireland caused by the protocol.

The EU agreed last month to change its rules to ensure that the supply of National Health Service (NHS) medicines to Northern Ireland would not be interrupted.

Britain complains, however, that the EU’s proposals for easing trade friction are less generous or effective than Brussels asserts. The official British position is that it retains the option of unilaterally suspending parts of the protocol by triggering Article 16 but the EU has made clear that such a move could lead to the termination of the trade and cooperation agreement that guarantees zero-tariff, zero-quota trade across the Channel.