‘Full speed ahead!’ Liz Truss to wine and dine Maros Sefcovic in bid to break NI deadlock

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The Foreign Secretary has invited Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, to her country residence of Chevening House to press for progress by the end of January. Over dinner on January 13, she will present a series of “constructive proposals” to ease the trade disruptions caused by the protocol.

A Foreign Office source told The Telegraph that Ms Truss wants urgent progress on the bespoke trade rules for Northern Ireland.

They said: “Liz has invited Sefcovic over at the earliest opportunity and wants to go full speed ahead with talks.

“She wants urgent progress. She is determined to get this thing done and find a fair, proportionate and durable solution that genuinely solves problems and protects the Good Friday agreement.”

Discussions are expected to continue until 14 January with the summit seen as an attempt to end the row over the protocol and reset UK-EU relations

Ms Truss is expected to warn Mr Sefcovic that triggering Article 16 temporarily suspending parts of the protocol remains an option.

The UK argues that under the current arrangements EU-ordered border checks on British goods are having a chilling effect on trade to Northern Ireland.

Allies of the Foreign Secretary also point out that she will demand “urgent progress” in talks to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Ms Truss was appointed to oversee Brexit negotiations with the EU last month following the resignation of Lord Frost who voiced concerns over the “direction” of Boris Johnson’s Government. 

The Foreign Secretary sees Chevening near Sevenoaks in Kent as the ideal venue for negotiations.

She has already used the 115-room country home to bolster post-Brexit ties with Gulf leaders and counterparts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

One sticking point to negotiations is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as the final arbiter of disputes over the Protocol.

Ms Truss is also likely to argue for measures to ease the burden of EU ordered checks on British goods. 

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However, if negotiations are unproductive then the Government could suspend Article 16 – effectively ending the Irish sea trading border from the EU’s perspective.

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