Britain and the European Union might agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland before the end of the year, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.
Technical talks on the Northern Ireland protocol resumed at the beginning of October for the first time in seven months. The protocol is the part of the Brexit deal that mandated checks on some goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom due to the province’s open land border with EU member Ireland.
“I think we can do that. I think we can do that before the end of the year,” the Irish FM, who has played a significant role in negotiations around the issue, said in an interview with Newstalk Radio.
“There are encouraging signals now from the British government that they are serious for the first time in many, many months about trying to work this out through dialogue and discussion,” he added.
On Thursday British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that he was pleased with the progress made so far.
Very positive meeting with @MichealMartinTD today at the 38th British-Irish Council.
I reiterated my deep commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and stressed my desire to find a negotiated solution to the Northern Ireland protocol. pic.twitter.com/FcQFFRVKEi
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) November 10, 2022
Window of opportunity
If Britain shows “real intent” to solve the issue through gestures like the sharing of real-time trade data, the EU will respond with generosity, Mr Coveney said.
The two sides are working to take advantage of a “window of opportunity” created by the delay in Northern Ireland elections until at least March, he emphasised.
“We need to use this window now to try to resolve these issues once and for all,” the Irish MP said while pointing out that he had feared an election might have made it harder for pro-British unionist opponents of the protocol to back a compromise.
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