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Friday, January 21, 2022

Coveney to meet British Foreign Secretary for talks on Northern Ireland Protocol weeks after David Frost’s resignation

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is to meet with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in London today for talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol and foreign policy. The meeting comes just three weeks after the resignation of David Frost, and ahead of Truss’s first meeting with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic next week.

Relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom were improving last month, when the UK dropped its demand for the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to be removed from the Protocol. Furthermore, Truss has indicated that she will not deviate from Britain’s new position, which hopes to seek an initial agreement on practical issues, such as customs checks.

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The meeting will be the first Coveney and Truss will have since she became Foreign Secretary last September. Sources from the Irish Government have said the meeting offers the opportunity for the two ministers to establish a good working relationship.

As Truss hosts EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic next week, she is expected to present constructive proposals to ease the trade friction between Britain and Northern Ireland caused by the protocol.

Britain is concerned that the EU ‘s proposals for easing trade friction are less generous and effective that Brussels claims. The UK is standing by its position that it retains the option of unilaterally suspending parts of the Protocol by triggering Article 16. However, the EU has made clear that such a move would result in the termination of the trade and cooperation agreement.

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The EU agreed last month to alter its rules to ensure that the supply of National Health Service (NHS) medicines to Northern Ireland would not be interrupted.

The meeting between Truss and Sefcovic is expected to last until January 14th, with the meeting seen as an attempt to reset EU-UK relations. Truss will warn Sefcovic that triggering Article 16 remains an option for the UK, while expressing the chilling effect the current arrangements of EU-ordered border checks on British goods are having on trade to Northern Ireland.

David Frost resigned from the UK Government on December 18th 2021, claiming he had concerns with direction the Government was going in. Frost cited Boris Johnson’s tax hikes, net-zero commitments, Covid-19 regulations and a failure to seize the benefits of Brexit as his reasons for resignation.

IMAGE – “Simon Carbery Coveney” (CC BY 2.0) by EU2017EE

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