Liz Truss sends slow-moving EU diplomats into a tailspin with latest demands

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meets with Maros Sefcovic

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Ms Truss has been engaging in yet another round of talks with the EU’s Vice President, Maros Sefcovic, to resolve the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. But following the meeting, Mr Sefcovic has reportedly told member states that there is no prospect of an imminent breakthrough. He described Tuesday’s meeting with Ms Truss as “frustrating” and “difficult”.

The Foreign Secretary has reportedly been ruffling feathers in the EU by attempting to “renegotiate the Protocol” and bringing up issues that had previously been dealt with, a source present at the talks told journalist Tony Connelly.

For example, Ms Truss has reportedly argued that the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) state aid provisions should be used instead of the Protocol provisions, which are more onerous.

But the EU has argued that the two treaties are different for a reason.

The Protocol provisions on state aid reflect the fact that Northern Ireland is effectively part of the single market, while the TCA provisions relate to international trade.

Speaking about Ms Truss’ negotiating tactics, an EU source told RTE’s Mr Connelly: “This was all gone through a long time ago as to why they’re different.

“And Britain signed up to it.

“Now, she wants to change this, she wants the TCA provisions on state aid.”

The source added: “She refers to the need to renegotiate the Protocol.

“So all of that is very negative.

“But then it’s in the context of her saying I want to do a deal.

“She wants to do a deal quickly. So how do you square that?”

Ms Truss is also asking for a stronger focus on SPS checks – measures designed to protect humans, animals and plants from diseases or pests.

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This has apparently been met with a more receptive EU response, with Mr Connelly reporting that technical teams will work this week to resolve the issue.

The two leaders are due to meet again on Thursday next week.

The meeting will reportedly be focused on how the European Commission can lower SPS checks while remaining assured that unregulated goods won’t enter the single market.

In a joint statement, Ms Truss and Mr Sefcovic said there was a “constructive atmosphere” at the talks.

It added that they “reaffirmed their shared desire for a positive EU-UK relationship underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy and cooperation on common global challenges.”

The tension comes despite reports of an improved relationship between the UK and EU since Ms Truss took over the brief from Lord Frost.

The previous Brexit Minister resigned from his post in December, citing “concerns about the current direction of travel” in the UK Government.

The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol since October 2021.

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