Liz Truss gives EU just four weeks for cave in Brexit talks – deadline set for Article 16

Brexit: NI Protocol is 'damaging the union' says Kate Hoey

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The Foreign Secretary, who took over negotiations from Lord Frost last month, is thought to want a quick end to the drawn-out row over the Brexit mechanism. She will meet face to face with the European Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic next Thursday for the first time since taking on her new role.

The South West Norfolk MP will host her counterpart for dinner at Chevening House, her grace-and-favour home, to present her plan to ease frictions in discussions.

Negotiations will then continue the following day as the pair seek to break the deadlock that has stalled talks.

The UK originally put forward proposals to make changes to the Protocol in July 2021, with the EU presenting its own ideas in October.

Lord Frost immediately began negotiations to find a solution, threatening to trigger Article 16 to suspend the Protocol if an agreement was not found by the middle of November.

However, the talks kept being extended and broke up before Christmas without agreement.

Unionists and Brexiteers have become frustrated at the repeated delays and want the Government to take swift action to suspend the treaty if a deal cannot be reached.

They claim the Protocol in its current form is undermining the UK’s internal market due to restrictions on trade from Britain to Northern Ireland.

They warn the frictions risk firing tensions and undermining the Good Friday peace agreement.

Ms Truss is set to warn the EU she will not hesitate to take action if a compromise in talks is not found.

A Foreign Office source told The Telegraph: “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.

“She wants a constructive relationship with Sefcovic and the EU and to get off on the right foot.”

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Critics of Lord Frost accused him of ruining the UK’s relationship with the EU in his approach to negotiations.

Ms Truss has set herself the ambitious task of solving the Protocol row while simultaneously rebuilding relations with Brussels.

The former Brexit minister resigned from his post in December over “concerns about the current direction of travel” of Government.

He warned Mr Johnson against “coercive measures” to tackle coronavirus as he said the UK needed “to learn to live with Covid”.

Lord Frost rejected any suggestion he had quit over differences of opinion over Brexit talks.

“You and I have always shared the same approach on Brexit and I do not think we would have achieved so much without that close common understanding of our aims,” he wrote.

“You have been an outstanding leader at a moment of grave constitutional crisis for this country.

“Many said that it would be impossible to deliver what we did: an end to political turbulence by implementing the referendum result, a stunning election victory, an exit from the EU which gave us full freedom about our future choices as a country, and finally putting in place the world’s broadest and indeed only zero-tariff free trade deal.”

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