EU ultimatum as bloc prepares to CUT OFF Brexit talks – Sefcovic plans extraordinary move

Northern Ireland Protocol: 'We'll look for alternatives' says Truss

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Liz Truss, who took over from Lord Frost’s Brexit brief late last year, will meet with EU Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels today, on Monday. They will open yet another round of negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Mr Šefčovič has warned that if this and other talks soon to follow do not result in a breakthrough, negotiations will be paused at the end of February, according to reports.

This would be to prevent talks from overlapping with the Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign.

Polling for the election is set for May, but campaigning will start months before.

One MEP, quoted in RTÉ, said: “The EU doesn’t want to get dragged into the Northern Ireland election campaign if this isn’t resolved by the end of February.”

Ahead of today’s talks, Ms Truss expressed a willingness to get the wheels turning.

She said: “There is a deal to be done, and we need to make it happen.”

The Foreign Secretary is also facing pressure from Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Foreign Minister.

He told the Financial Times at the end of 2021 that negotiations over the Protocol “can’t drift on for months”.

Mr Coveney said: “We have elections in Northern Ireland in May. Those elections will begin in earnest really from the end of February.

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“So this can’t drift on for months.”

He warned that if talks do not conclude before the elections begin, it will simply “become a referendum on the Protocol”.

Like Mr Šefčovič, Ireland’s Foreign Minister suggested the onus was on Britain to concede to demands put forward by the EU, not the other way round.

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Ms Truss, however, has insisted there is a “shared responsibility” for a solution to be found and that more work needs to be done on both sides.

Former special adviser to Boris Johnson on Europe Raoul Ruparel suggested the gap that needs to be bridged is no small one.

In a post on Twitter, he said the “atmosphere and tone has improved” in recent weeks but, importantly, “the substance remains the same”.

Mr Ruparel added: “But the UK approach has changed in one sense: there is a clear desire for a more political negotiation.

“There is a strong case for this given challenges around the Protocol are political as much as technical but this has been consistently opposed by the EU.”

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