The EU is “not too impressed” with Tory threats of breaking the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland if negotiations fail, a senior European diplomat has said.
Joao Vale de Almeida, the European Union’s ambassador to the UK said it was unhelpful to “keep agitating the issue” of triggering Article 16 ahead of discussions next week.
But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed a pledge from Liz Truss to suspend parts of the Brexit deal if talks between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Procol fail.
‘We’re not too impressed’
Truss insisted she will suggest “constructive proposals” to European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, but at the same time said she is “willing” to invoke Article 16, if a deal cannot be struck.
Vale de Almeida told Sky News: “We’ve heard this before from the government, so we’re not surprised. We are not too impressed.
“We still believe it’s not very helpful that we keep agitating the issue of Article 16. I think what we should focus on – at least that’s where we are focused on – is trying to find solutions for difficulties in the implementation of the protocol.”
He added: “We are eager to reconnect but we are even more eager to find compromises because we need to move on. It’s been too long.”
Truss wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that it is her “absolute priority” to solve the “unintended consequences” created by Brexit in Northern Ireland, quoting issues such as red tape.
She said: “When I see Maros Sefcovic this week for our first face-to-face talks, I’ll be putting forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation.
“I am prepared to work night and day to negotiate a solution.
“But let me be clear: I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks.
“My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution, but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.”
Tory threats ‘touch on fundamentals of relationship with EU’
Last week, Sefcovic warned that “the foundation of the entire deal” agreed between the UK and the EU is at risk if Truss acts on her threats.
He told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “This is a very distracting element in the discussions. You try to achieve something together and – bam – there’s the threat of Article 16 again,”
“It touches on the fundamentals of our relationship.
“The Northern Ireland Protocol was the most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations, and it is the foundation of the entire deal. Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent that at any cost.”
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