The UK and European Union will continue “intensive discussions” to resolve the deadlock over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements, Liz Truss said.
The Foreign Secretary met European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Monday for talks aimed at making progress on issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In a joint statement, the pair said there was a “constructive atmosphere” and they will meet again next week.
Officials will carry on talks this week before Ms Truss and Mr Sefcovic meet to take stock of the situation.
Ms Truss said the “teams continue intensive discussions”.
The joint statement said Monday’s meeting “took place in a constructive atmosphere with the aim to advance the talks”.
As well as the ongoing discussions, the EU-UK Joint Committee will meet in February. This will be the first time the panel, set up to oversee the implementation and application of the Brexit divorce deal, will have met since June.
The joint statement said Ms Truss and Mr Sefcovic “reaffirmed their shared desire for a positive EU-UK relationship underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy, and co-operation on common global challenges”.
🇪🇺🇬🇧My second meeting with Foreign Secretary @trussliz, following a week of intensive talks between our teams. Discussions continue and we will take stock again by the end of next week.
— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) January 24, 2022
The Government is seeking substantial changes to the protocol – which forms part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – arguing that it is hampering the free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and damaging community relations.
Speaking to broadcasters in Brussels, Ms Truss said: “I’m absolutely determined to protect political stability and peace in Northern Ireland. I want to work constructively with the EU to be able to achieve that and we need to do it in short order. We’ve agreed to have more intensive talks.”
Asked about whether the end of February could be a deadline for talks, she said: “We need to make as much progress as we can in the next few weeks.
“The situation in Northern Ireland is very difficult, we want goods to be able to flow freely that’s why we need to make urgent progress.”
In a statement to journalists, Mr Sefcovic said the protocol represents the “one and only solution found jointly” to protect the peace process.
He said negotiators must stay “laser-focused” on the practical challenges facing people in Northern Ireland, and suggested that progress can be made if “political goodwill is maintained”.
“I’m not in the business of setting artificial deadlines but I will act with a sense of urgency,” he said, adding that he will “take stock” of the state of play with Ms Truss by the end of next week.