May 27. 2024. 9:50

The Daily

Read the World Today

Northern Ireland protocol: James Cleverly in talks with EU as part of ‘intensive’ push for a deal

British foreign secretary James Cleverly and Chris Heaton-Harris, the Secretary for Northern Ireland, are due to hold a video-link meeting on Monday afternoon with the European Commission negotiator Maroš Šefčovič, as part of “intensive” discussions to strike a final deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.

A spokesman for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said today there would be “intensive work in coming days at ministerial and official levels” to reach agreement. “It would be wrong to say there is a final deal [yet],” Mr Sunak’s spokesman told Westminster reporters.

The spokesman appeared to suggest that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which if it passes through Britain’s houses of parliament would give the UK government powers to rip up previous arrangements agreed with the European Union, could be dispensed with as part of a final package of measures with the European Commission.

The spokesman said that “in the absence of a deal [the Bill remains] an important piece of legislation” to address the concerns of unionists. But he said the British government would prefer a negotiated solution. Sources close to former prime minister Boris Johnson warned over the weekend that Mr Sunak should not scrap the Bill.

READ MORE

Northern Ireland protocol: James Cleverly in talks with EU as part of ‘intensive’ push for a deal


All eyes will be on DUP’s verdict if a Brexit deal is struck this week

All eyes will be on DUP’s verdict if a Brexit deal is struck this week

Northern Ireland protocol: Boris Johnson threatens Rishi Sunak’s bid to end deadlock

Northern Ireland protocol: Boris Johnson threatens Rishi Sunak’s bid to end deadlock

Northern Ireland protocol deal ‘by no means done’, says Rishi Sunak

Northern Ireland protocol deal ‘by no means done’, says Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak’s spokesman said the prime minister is “personally” keeping the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) abreast of negotiations with the European Commission.

Speculation is mounting in London that Mr Sunak could present a proposed deal to his cabinet on Tuesday. This raises the prospect that he may once again travel to Northern Ireland to sell any agreement to the DUP, perhaps as early as Thursday.

There are currently no plans for him to address any meeting the Eurosceptic branch of the Tory Party, the European Research Group, which is pushing for him to maintain a tougher stance with Europe.

Earlier on Monday, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said here has been “considerable momentum” behind Britain and the European Union coming to an agreement to resolve Northern Ireland’s disputed post-Brexit arrangements but there is no certainty of a deal this week.

“I think there has been considerable momentum built up,” he told journalists as he arrived for a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels.

“One would be hopeful for progress this week, but one cannot be certain.”

At a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there was ‘momentum’ behind Northern Ireland protocol agreement. Video: EU

Mr Martin was briefed on the progress of talks between sides by the European Commission’s point man on the protocol Maroš Šefčovič late on Sunday, and said there was “constant engagement” and that the EU was in “solution mode”.

“People will obviously be seeking clarification, greater detail perhaps,” in further talks this week, Mr Martin said. “If the will is there – and the will has been there – issues can get resolved.”

The Tánaiste stressed the importance of restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland as the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement approaches.

The DUP has said its concerns over the protocol must be addressed as a condition of it returning to Stormont and allowing an Assembly to be formed.

[ ‘Huge gaps’ remain between EU and UK on protocol deal, DUP MP says ]

Mr Martin suggested that the United States was prepared to offer economic “supports” to Northern Ireland to fortify it for the future, following his trip to Washington earlier this month.

“I think an opportunity is presenting itself,” Mr Martin said.

“The United States are very keen on the economic side to give additional supports, the European Union stands ready on that side, and I know the UK and the Irish Government stand ready.”

Businesses “want certainty”, Mr Martin said. “They want a clear pathway for the future. They want access to the European Single Market because it’s beneficial to jobs and quality of life.”

“The people of Northern voted they want their institutions restored,” Mr Martin continued.

“People had legitimate concerns around the operation of the protocol has been a very sincere and substantial attempt to resolve those concerns... we should then focus on the needs of the people.”

[ Northern Ireland protocol: Boris Johnson threatens Rishi Sunak’s bid to end deadlock ]

EU foreign ministers were meeting as the one year anniversary approaches of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with discussions focused on how to fortify support for Kyiv in advance of an anticipated spring offensive by Moscow.

Some EU members states have backed a proposal for the union to jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine, which is currently facing a supply crunch amid intense fighting around the eastern town of Bakhmut.

Asked whether Ireland would be part of such a plan, Mr Martin said that Ireland had provided only non-lethal support for Ukraine through the European Peace Facility fund and that support would continue “on that basis”.

[ Russia claims to have gained ground in Kharkiv as Kyiv accuses it of ‘nuclear terrorism’ ]

“The loss of life is shocking,” he said. “The constant attacks on civilian infrastructure and on citizens in Ukraine is absolutely appalling and shocking, and we all have an obligation to do everything we can to support the people of Ukraine.”