Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss said on Wednesday her preference is to find a negotiated settlement with the European Union to resolve the issues around the contentious rules that govern post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland.
The stand-off over the Northern Ireland protocol is by far the biggest of several issues straining relations between the EU and Britain, and could lead to a trade war if London presses ahead with legislation effectively tearing up some of the rules. Truss introduced the legislation as foreign minister seeking to unilaterally scrap some checks on goods from the rest of the United Kingdom and said during the leadership campaign that she was determined to deliver the bill in full.
“My preference is for a negotiated solution, but it does have to deliver all of the things we set out in the Northern Ireland protocol bill, and what we cannot allow is for this situation to drift,” Truss told parliament. Britain agreed as part of its EU departure to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the bloc’s single market for goods, preserving the region’s open border with EU member Ireland by creating a monitored one with the rest of the UK.
In his first remarks as Britain’s new Northern Ireland minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said earlier that he believed that there is a “fairly obvious landing zone” for an agreement. Britain’s junior minister for the region, Conor Burns, also told parliament that he had “constructive and prolonged talks” with the EU’s post-Brexit negotiator, European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, at a conference last weekend.
Sefcovic told the British-Irish Association that Brussels has been calling for almost a year for London to engage with it on proposals it made to simplify the trade rules and that this offer still stood for the new government. “I am convinced that if the appetite exists, we can find a way to a negotiated solution to the Northern Ireland protocol,” Burns said, addding that it would help find a new way of working in partnership with the EU post-Brexit.
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