I just held my second meeting with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland.
Today’s meeting followed a week of intensive talks between our teams. On EU side, we have remained steadfast in our efforts to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol on the ground, while safeguarding the integrity of the EU’s Single Market, and ultimately, this is about ensuring stability, predictability and prosperity in Northern Ireland, bearing in mind that the Protocol represents the one and only solution found jointly, in light of Brexit, to protect the gains of the peace process and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
After my first meeting with Foreign Secretary Truss, I said we needed to start taking things off the table.
To get to that point, I believe we must stay laser-focused on practical challenges raised by Northern Irish stakeholders – mirrored in EU-proposed solutions.
In this context, I find it particularly important that our teams dive into the questions related to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As you know, in areas like customs and the movement of sanitary and phytosanitary goods, the EU has proposed an extensive reduction of formalities unmatched for any other third country.
So if political goodwill is maintained, our discussions could lead to a timely agreement on durable solutions that would immediately and significantly help operators on the ground.
At the same time, I have remained clear that we need safeguards to protect the EU’s Single Market. The risks here – be it fiscal or in the area of public health and consumer protection – are not theoretical.
I am not in the business of setting artificial deadlines, but I will act with a sense of urgency.
With Liz Truss, we will take stock at our level by the end of next week. And we have also agreed that the EU-UK Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement will take place in the course of next month.
In a couple of days, two years will pass since Brexit. And I continue to believe that it is our shared interest to rebuild trust and work in close partnership, especially in a world where democracy increasingly finds itself under pressure from many sides.
For my part, I will do my utmost.