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UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference in Washington Manuel Balce Ceneta/PA
Northern Ireland Protocol

Protocol dispute must be resolved through a 'negotiated settlement', says Blinken

Speculation had mounted in recent days that the two sides could be edging towards a breakthrough.

US SECRETARY OF State Antony Blinked has reiterated the White House’s call for a negotiated settlement to the dispute between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has held talks in Washington over the war in Ukraine at which the impasse over the Protocol was also discussed.

Blinken said at a press conference: “The United States believes there must be a negotiated settlement to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol that is acceptable to all sides.

“We are heartened that in recent days the United Kingdom and the European Union have made substantive progress toward a negotiated solution.”

Speculation had mounted in recent days that the two sides could be edging towards a breakthrough on the Northern Ireland Protocol, amid suggestions that cross-Channel relations have improved since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister.

The announcement last week that a deal had been reached on sharing real-time data on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland was seen as a step towards an overall resolution.

Cleverly said he had updated his US counterpart on his negotiations with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic to try to end the dispute.

He played down, however, attempts to achieve a settlement by the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April for a possible visit to the UK by President Joe Biden.

“We recognise the US president’s – and indeed the whole of the US government’s – desire to see this resolution,” Cleverly said.

“It mirrors our desire to get these things resolved and indeed I believe very strongly mirrors the European Commission’s desire to get these things resolved.”

“We do these things because they are the right things to do, not because we are trying to hit a particular date or anniversary. We want to get these things resolved as soon as possible can.”

Blinken’s remarks come after Cleverly and EU post-Brexit negotiator Sefcovic agreed to continue “scoping work” to solve the dispute over the Protocol.

After a video conference yesterday, the pai released a joint statement acknowledging :”the need to find solutions together to tackle comprehensively the real-life concerns of all communities in Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market and the integrity of the EU’s single market.

“They agreed that this scoping work for potential solutions should continue in a constructive and collaborative spirit, taking careful account of each other’s legitimate interests.”

However, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he does not think the UK and EU are close to a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“It was clear from our conversations with James Cleverly last Wednesday when he visited Belfast that there are still substantial gaps between the two sides,” said the DUP leader.

“Our position remains unchanged. We need to get an agreement that restores Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market.”

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