Liz Truss will launch a charm offensive with Brussels today in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock over Northern Ireland.
The Foreign Secretary will host European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic for a two-day summit at her official country residence Chevening as she tries to end the border row threatening to destabilise the Province.
Miss Truss will warn Mr Sefcovic that the EU ‘shares responsibility to protect the peace in Northern Ireland’ and remind him that Britain reserves the right to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol – which would let the UK unilaterally suspend EU checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
But the minister will also table ‘pragmatic’ new proposals designed to break the deadlock which has dragged on since the UK left the EU.
And she will stress that resolving the Northern Ireland issue could open the door to better relations between Britain and the EU in a wide range of areas.
One source said the Foreign Secretary believes there is a possible ‘landing zone’ for a deal, which could be struck within weeks.
Liz Truss will launch a charm offensive with Brussels today in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock over Northern Ireland
Speaking ahead of the opening of today’s talks, Miss Truss said: ‘There is a deal to be done that protects peace in Northern Ireland, defends our Union, and maintains the integrity of the United Kingdom and EU. But it will require a pragmatic approach from the EU.
‘I will be putting forward practical, reasonable solutions starting from these fundamental principles, with a view to agreeing a plan for intensive negotiations. The EU has a clear responsibility to help fix the myriad problems caused by the Protocol and protect the Good Friday Agreement.’
Boris Johnson handed responsibility for Brexit to Miss Truss last month following the resignation of Brexit Minister Lord Frost over policy differences.
Lord Frost, who negotiated the original Brexit deal, adopted a hardline approach to the talks, which yielded a number of concessions, but which was also blamed by some for souring the mood on central issues.
One Foreign Office source said the new approach would be ‘carrot and stick, but more carrot than stick’.
Chevening, a 115-room mansion in Kent, is one of the grandest grace-and-favour properties on the Government’s books.
The Foreign Secretary will host European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic for a two-day summit at her official country residence Chevening (pictured) as she tries to end the border row threatening to destabilise the Province
Mr Sefcovic and his team are expected to arrive this morning for a full day of talks ahead of a ‘political dinner’ hosted by Miss Truss this evening, where they will be served Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kent apple pie.
Further talks will then continue tomorrow morning before Mr Sefcovic returns to Brussels.
Officials hope that Miss Truss’s new proposals will then form the basis for two weeks of intensive negotiations before a further political meeting at the end of this month, probably in Brussels.
The Foreign Office declined to comment on the detail of Miss Truss’s new proposals, but a source said she wanted to ‘focus on more practical solutions to the problems affecting people on the ground’.
The source said the key principles established by Lord Frost would remain in place, with a focus on easing the flow of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland by cutting paperwork and checks, and ensuring that the European Court of Justice is not the ‘final arbiter’ of disputes.
Under the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland has been granted free access to the EU’s single market to prevent the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But this has led to the imposition of onerous EU checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
Britain and India will today launch negotiations on a new trade deal that could double UK exports.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will meet her counterpart Piyush Goyal in New Delhi to start talks formally.