EU President Ursula von der Leyen is ‘very confident’ in the deal to end the Brexit spat over Northern Ireland, saying Brussels has listened ‘very carefully’ to business concerns
- Ursula von der Leyen is confident a deal can be struck to end the Brexit quarrel
- President of the European Commission says that Brussels will show a ‘constructive approach’
- Her comments will further boost hopes for a breakthrough on the N Ireland Protocol
During a two-day visit to Dublin, Ms von der Leyen urged Brussels to show a “constructive approach” to the dispute over post-Brexit trade rules.
She also stressed that the EU has been “listening very carefully to people’s and businesses’ concerns” about the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Ms von der Leyen’s comments will further raise hopes for an imminent breakthrough in the ongoing talks on the protocol.
Both the EU and the UK have recently pointed to improved ‘mood music’ around discussions as both sides want to move beyond a bitter row over Britain’s threat to unilaterally tear up the Protocol using new legislation in Westminster.
Ursula von der Leyen said she was ‘very confident’ a deal could be struck to end the Brexit row over Northern Ireland
The President of the European Commission was greeted in Dublin by Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin
Ms von der Leyen warned the EU’s “very close cooperation” with Ireland on Brexit issues would not weaken
Unionists in Northern Ireland fear the protocol has weakened their position as part of the United Kingdom
The protocol was created to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But Britain has attacked the EU for being too rigid in its implementation of the Brexit deal, such as imposing ‘bureaucratic’ controls on goods moving across the Irish Sea.
Unionists in Northern Ireland also fear the protocol has weakened their position as part of the UK.
The DUP continues to block the restoration of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland in the absence of reforms to the Protocol.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic – the two lead negotiators of the protocol – held regular catch-up talks this afternoon on the state of talks.
Both were positive about finding a ‘solution’ to the quarrel over protocol, with Mr Sefcovic pledging to ‘make the most of this clear opportunity’.
Prior to their call, Ms. von der Leyen also raised expectations that an agreement could soon be reached to end the Protocol row.
She said: ‘We, the European Union, have listened very carefully to the concerns of people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
“We have always shown flexibility, we will always have a constructive approach to these issues.
“If there is the political will in the UK, I am confident we can come to a positive conclusion.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic – the two lead negotiators on the protocol – held regular catch-up talks this afternoon
But the European Commission president also warned that the EU’s “very close cooperation” with Ireland on Brexit issues will not weaken.
“It was rock solid and is rock solid, and this is so important,” she said after being greeted by Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin in Dublin
“I know Brexit meant a lot of adjustment for Ireland, but you’ve done that very successfully as far as I can see.”
Speaking to the Irish Parliament, Ms von der Leyen later said her recent dealings with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been ‘encouraging’.
She added: ‘I am pleased that our talks with London today are characterized by a new, more pragmatic spirit, because the EU and the UK are still members of the same extended family, even though we no longer live in the same house.
‘I can promise you that when the EU meets with our British friends, we will do so with ‘an honest heart and an open mind’ – to quote the great Irish band The Saw Doctors.
“By using common sense and focusing on the issues that really matter in Northern Ireland, I believe we can make progress in resolving the practical issues surrounding the protocol.”
Ms von der Leyen was also scheduled to meet with Irish President Michael D Higgins.