Thursday 24 June 2021 12:29 pm

EU ambassador to UK 'encouraged' by Northern Ireland developments

Brussels’ ambassador to the UK has said he is “encouraged” by recent developments in UK-EU Northern Ireland talks as tensions begin to cool between the two sides.

João Vale de Almeida told peers today that the EU had shown “a great deal of understanding and flexibility” in negotiations with the UK over the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, despite claims by Boris Johnson and his government.

Environment secretary George Eustice also said today he was getting “positive indications” on the issue.

Irish broadcaster RTE first reported yesterday that EU nations have informally agreed to a truce with the UK in the so-called sausage war.

The development means there will be a three-month delay, until September, to the ban on sausages from Great Britain being shipped to Northern Ireland.

The row threatened to descend into a trade war, with both sides trading barbs at the G7 summit earlier this month.

Speaking to a House of Lords committee today, Almeida said: “I’m encouraged by very recent developments in the context of the Northern Ireland Protocol, as we say it is an essential piece in our current discussion and the fact that the UK government decided not to opt for unilateral ameasures in some aspects of trade is encouraging.

“I look forward to a lowering of temperature of the public discourse about this relationship and I’m not thinking of anyone in particular. I think it’s a collective responsibility to de-dramatise this relationship.”

Eustice said this morning that “it’s always our view that it’s better if we can reach agreement with the European Union on these things”.

“We’re still in dialogue with the European Union about some longer term solutions on the wider issues, about export health certificates, and while those are ongoing it makes sense for them for a few more months to leave the current arrangement we have in place,” he said.

The UK and EU have been negotiating for months over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which sees checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea.

This is because Northern Ireland still follows EU customs union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the UK, in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The UK has called on the EU to be more flexible when applying checks to goods crossing the Irish Sea, with claims the current regime is harming Northern Irish businesses and inflaming unionist tensions.

Brussels says the border measures are necessary to stop some unchecked goods entering its single market, while also arguing that they are following the protocol to the letter of the law.

“We have shown…a great deal of understanding and flexibility – we are turning our regulations upsides down to try and find a solution to this problem,” Almeida said.

UK-EU minister Lord David Frost said earlier this week: “Sometimes it feels like the resort to threats [by the EU] is a bit quick and we don’t make threats in quite the same way as I think some players in the EU do and I think if we can dial that down a bit that would help.”

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