Brexit: Liz Truss can ‘finish Brexit’ says Marc Roche
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The Foreign Secretary invited her Brussels counterpart for two days of talks at her country home of Chevening as she sought to find a breakthrough in negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Ms Truss wined and dined the eurocrat as she attempted to woo him in talks with the pair feasting on Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kent apple pie as they got to know each other.
She also took him on a walk of the grounds of the 17th Century mention in Kent in a bid to build up a personal rapport during what was their first face-to-face meeting.
The strategy is in stark contrast to Lord Frost, who took a far more icy approach with the EU to keep his cards close to his chest and Brussels unsure of the UK’s next move.
While his tactics yielded results in withdrawal negotiations and trade talks, he failed to make headway on the Northern Ireland Protocol before his departure from Government.
Mr Sefcovic appeared to welcome the new approach, saying negotiations ended this morning: “I appreciate Liz Truss’s hospitality.
“A chance to discuss the implementation of the IE/NI Protocol, in particular.”
The pair also released a joint statement after the meeting, a rare occurrence when Lord Frost was in charge.
It said the talks were held in a “cordial atmosphere” and both sides were committed to finding a solution.
The statement read: “Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss held their first meeting at Chevening on 13-14 January.
“The meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere.
“They agreed that officials would meet next week in intensified talks and that the principals would meet again on 24 January.
“We share a desire for a positive relationship between the EU and the UK underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy.”
While Ms Truss and Mr Sefcovic appeared to hit it off at the two-day summit, both remained firm in their stances on the issues surrounding the Protocol.
The UK believes the implementation of the Brexit mechanism is having an adverse impact on the UK’s internal market.
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Ministers want an end to the requirement for customs checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland and for the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing the deal to be removed.
Brussels has argued the court’s role is not a concern for most people in Northern Ireland and that it will not renegotiate the Protocol.
“Now it’s time to start taking issues off the table,” Mr Sefcovic reiterated today.
The Foreign Secretary said there is a “deal to be done” with the European Union over the Protocol but that she would use the legal means to unilaterally suspend its implementation if the bloc did not compromise in talks.
“We are now going to go into intensive negotiations to work towards a negotiated solution to sort out these very real issues for the people of Northern Ireland,” she said in a pooled broadcast clip.
“I think there is a deal to be done.
“I do want to make progress.
“Clearly if we 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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