Northern Ireland Protocol: 'We'll look for alternatives' says Truss

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Liz Truss reiterated she is hoping to reach a “negotiated solution” in her talks with the European Union but is ready to “look at the alternatives.” Ms Truss took over negotiations from Lord Frost following his resignation and has maintained a hard line on the need to change the controversial Brexit protocol. The Foreign Secretary said talks with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic this week have been “constructive” and they will now intensify effort to find an agreement.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Truss said: “What I want is a negotiated solution. I think there is a deal to be done, we have had constructive talks over the last day.

“Of course, there is more work to do, that’s why we’re intensifying the discussions.

“I’ll be seeing the Vice-President again in a week’s time and I do want to make progress.

“Clearly, if don’t make sufficient progress, we will have to look at the alternatives. But my absolute desire is to get a deal that works for the people of Northern Ireland.”

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She continued: “Our priority is to make sure we protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and we deliver for the communities of Northern Ireland, making sure there is trade free-flowing and people are treated fairly.

“We’ve had constructive talks with the EU, we’re now going to go into intensive negotiations to work towards a negotiated solution to sort out these very real issues doe the people of Northern Ireland.”

Officials from the two sides will now meet for intensified discussions next week, before Truss and Sefcovic hold another meeting on Jan. 24.

“Now it’s time to start taking issues off the table,” Sefcovic said on Twitter.

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The Foreign Secretary last month took over the long-running negotiations to resolve the disagreements on how post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland – which Britain signed up to but now says is not workable in practice.

To avoid politically contentious border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK, and the EU agreed the nation would effectively remain within the EU’s customs union, with checks taking place on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland instead.

Brussels maintains it has put forward solutions to reduce customs paperwork and checks on agri-food products.

But Britain says it does not want a system that allows checks on goods moving solely within the United Kingdom, and does not want an arbitration role of the EU’s European Court of Justice.

Britain has repeatedly threatened to invoke Article 16 of the treaty allowing it to take unilateral action that would suspend customs checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland.

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Downing Street said the UK still believes the conditions for triggering Article 16 – unilaterally suspending parts of the treaty – have been reached, but the Government is still focused on trying to resolve the issues through talks.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We need to fix the problems in the protocol in order to protect the Belfast Agreement and the peace process.

“The Foreign Secretary will be putting forward practical and reasonable solutions with a view to agreeing a plan for intensive negotiations.

“We very much believe there is a deal to be done but the EU must show pragmatism.

“It remains our strong preference to reach a negotiated solution, which is what you can see we are seeking to achieve.”

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