Liz Truss wants talks with the EU on Irish trade deals to ‘speed up’ in the new year.
The Foreign Secretary also insisted that the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol had “not changed” after Lord Frost left as Brexit Minister.
Her comments came after her first call with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic since taking responsibility for the UK’s future relations with the EU, the Press Association reported.
Lord Frost resigned as Brexit minister over the weekend, citing the government’s ‘current direction of travel’ as well as fears about Covid’s ‘coercive’ measures for his decision.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and the EU as a way to maintain a fluid land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
But businesses have been hit by the changes, and London and Brussels are trying to reach a deal that would reduce customs formalities and the number of checks and inspections required on goods.
The prospect of invoking Article 16 of the protocol, a measure that would effectively unilaterally suspend the treaty, was presented by the UK as a possible course of action if necessary.
Ms Truss said: âWe want a constructive relationship with the EU, underpinned by trade and our common belief in freedom and democracy.
âSolving the current problems is essential to unlock this potential.
âThe British position has not changed. We need goods to move freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that we end the role of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) as the final arbiter of disputes between us and that we resolve d ‘other problems.
âWe need to step up the pace of talks in the new year. Our preference remains to reach an agreed solution.
“If that does not happen, we stand ready to trigger the Article 16 guarantees to address the very real problems in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement in all its dimensions.”
But Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said: âWhen this file was handed over to the Foreign Minister, we were hoping it was time to take a more diplomatic approach.
âInstead, it’s like Lord Frost never left. The outbreak of Article 16 will only lead to a ruinous trade war – hurting UK businesses just when they need support.
âThe reality is that Truss cares more about his reputation among Conservative Party loyalists than what is in Britain’s best interests.
âThe psychodrama of the Conservative leadership race has only just begun. “
Mr Sefcovic said he had “contacted” Ms Truss to discuss EU-UK relations, in particular on the protocol.
He added on Twitter: âI am committed to continuing to work to reach a successful agreement with the UK on practical solutions for NI stakeholders.
âThe position of the EU is known. Our goal: stability and predictability.
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