The European Union is “not too impressed” by Foreign Minister Liz Truss’ threat to bypass parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland if negotiations fail.
Joao Vale de Almeida, the bloc’s ambassador to the UK, said there was no point in “continuing to agitate the issue” of the triggering of Article 16, before discussions this week.
Ms Truss said she would suggest “constructive proposals” to her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in their first face-to-face talks when she retires to Chevening on Thursday.
But she said she was “willing” to invoke Article 16, which would suspend parts of the treaty designed to prevent a hard border with the Republic, if an agreement cannot be reached.
Mr Vale de Almeida told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “We’ve heard this from the government before, so we’re not surprised. We are not too impressed.
“We still think it’s not very helpful to keep fussing around the article 16 issue. I think what we should be focusing on – at least that’s what we’re focusing on – is to try to find solutions to the difficulties of implementing the protocol. “
He called for a “new momentum” in the talks, adding: “We are eager to reconnect, but we are even more eager to find compromises as we have to move forward. It’s been too long.”
The Foreign Secretary was given responsibility for the negotiations after Lord Frost resigned as Brexit Minister last month.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss said it was her “top priority” to address the “unintended consequences” created by the protocol to keep the peace in Northern Ireland.
“When I see Maros Sefcovic this week for our first face-to-face talks, I will present our constructive proposals to resolve the situation.”
The current problems are “myriad and obvious”, she argued, citing issues such as bureaucracy when sending parcels between Northern Ireland and Britain and problems with the food supply. kosher.
“I am ready to work day and night to negotiate a solution,” Ms. Truss said.
“But let me be clear: I will not endorse anything that would prevent the people of Northern Ireland from enjoying the same tax and spending rulings as the rest of the UK, or still seeing goods. circulate in our own country, subject to controls.
“My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution, but if we are to use legitimate provisions, including Article 16, I am ready to do so. “
Last week Mr Sefcovic warned that “the foundation of the whole deal” negotiated between the UK and the EU would be in jeopardy if Ms Truss took drastic action.
“It’s a very embarrassing element in the discussions. You are trying to achieve something together and – bam – there is the threat of Article 16 again, ”he told German newspaper Der Spiegel.
“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 whole deal. Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent this at all costs.