Northern Ireland Protocol - talks between EU and UK to resume

Donohoe sees ‘window of opportunity’ as hopes of a reset in EU-UK relations grow with Truss to attend Prague summit

European Union and United Kingdom officials are to this week resume talks on how to resolve a standoff over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the European Commission has said.

“There will be technical-level talks, discussions, exchanges, already this week,” European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said.

“We need to find the solutions to bring predictability, certainty to people in Northern Ireland,” he continued. “We have been standing ready for a long time now to find the solutions, to negotiate.”

A surprise announcement by the new British prime minister Liz Truss that she would attend the first summit of the European Political Community, a meeting of 44 EU and non-EU leaders in Prague on Thursday, has boosted hopes of a reset in EU-UK relations following years of troubled talks over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.

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The summit will bring leaders from Britain, Turkey, Norway and Ukraine together with leaders from the 27 EU member states, in a bid to foster greater regional unity on geopolitical questions such as the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said there was a chance now for the EU and UK to reach an agreement to resolve the long-running dispute over the North’s post-Brexit arrangements.

“I do believe a window of opportunity exists to reach an agreement. I do believe such an agreement would be a very valuable signal regarding the co-operation between the United Kingdom and European Union,” Mr Donohoe told journalists after he chaired a meeting as president of the Eurogroup group of finance ministers.

The commission’s point-man on Brexit and the protocol, Maroš Šefčovič, had recently brought forward proposals on how Brussels could engage with the British government to try to resolve the impasse, he added.

“I want to acknowledge the scale of effort by Commissioner Šefčovič, the recent measures and proposals that he brought forward to try to reach an agreement on the process of engagement between the United Kingdom and European Union,” Mr Donohoe said.

“I know the commission are sparing no effort in their commitment to that process and as always they have the full commitment and full appreciation of the Irish Government for their unstinting efforts to bring that negotiation to a successful conclusion.”

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times