Northern Ireland: Timmermans says 'solution is within reach'

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Irish Prime Minister Michaél Martin warned the UK on Thursday that triggering Article 16 of the Brexit protocol would be “irresponsible” and “reckless”. Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Martin urged the UK to act “in good faith” and respect the Brexit agreement signed with Brussels in 2020, as Lord David Frost prepared to resume talks with the EU Commission.

The Irish leader said: “It would be irresponsible, it would be unwise, and it would be reckless to invoke Article 16 as a response to the proposals from the European Commission.

“I think we have acted in good faith, I think the European Commission has acted in good faith and I think a good-faith response is required from the United Kingdom government.”

He added: “Such an action would not be in accordance with the spirit of partnership that has informed the peace process from the get-go and that has informed the creation of the entire architecture that underpins the Good Friday agreement.”

Lord Frost has claimed the conditions for using Article 16 – allowing parts of the deal to be suspended – have been met because of the difficulties being caused.

The UK also wants an end to the European Court of Justice’s oversight role, something that Brussels has said is impossible.

Lord Frost has said he expects the issues around the protocol to be settled “one way or another” this autumn.

Senior EU figures are hopeful that the use of Article 16 of the protocol can be avoided.

European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told ITV’s Peston that Brussels was “bending over backwards” to reach an agreement with the UK.

Lord Frost will meet Maros Sefcovic today in Brussels.

The meeting follows discussions between Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune on Thursday aimed at calming tensions in the dispute over post-Brexit licences to fish in UK waters.

No breakthroughs were announced after the meeting between the pair.

But Downing Street said it is confident France will not resume its threats to increase checks or block British boats from French ports in the “coming days”.

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The diplomatic storm was triggered by France threatening sanctions over what it perceives as a refusal to issue licences to its trawlers to operate in UK waters.

Following the latest meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the French government had assured it will not immediately restore the threats as talks continue.

“They’ve made it clear to us they’re not planning to introduce them in the short-term. Both sides are keen to have further discussions,” he said.

Lord Frost’s meeting in Brussels is likely to focus on efforts to bridge the gap between the two sides on the future of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

To avoid a hard border with Ireland, the protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods, resulting in some checks for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain, which left the single market.

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