Cleverly and Sefcovic to talk amid row over Northern Ireland Protocol

The European Commission vice president has led talks between the EU and the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Cleverly and Sefcovic to talk amid row over Northern Ireland Protocol

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The UK foreign secretary will hold his first call later with Maros Sefcovic, amid an ongoing row over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

The European Commission vice president, who has led talks between the EU and the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol, is expected to speak with James Cleverly around lunchtime.

Relations between London and Brussels remain at a low ebb, after the UK government angered the EU with plans to rip up swathes of the protocol in a bid to address the concerns of unionists in Northern Ireland.

The protocol, signed by former prime minister Boris Johnson’s government, effectively keeps Northern Ireland aligned with many EU single market rules to avoid a hard border with Ireland, therefore requiring some checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

Cabinet meeting
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Victoria Jones/PA)

Despite elections in May, there is currently no sitting powersharing executive in Northern Ireland after the DUP withdrew its first minister from the governing executive in protest in February at the economic border created in the Irish Sea by the protocol.

It was Liz Truss as foreign secretary who introduced legislation which effectively tears up parts of the agreement, worsening relations with the EU.

Nonetheless, both sides have insisted that a negotiated outcome is the preferred option amid hopes that some form of compromise can be reached.

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday, Ms Truss said that the UK government remains open to a “negotiated settlement”, but insisted that the situation cannot be allowed to “drift”.

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