More pressure on hated Brexit deal after new poll and gruelling Sefcovic talks

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meets with Maros Sefcovic

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It was published before Liz Truss and Maros Sefcovic held gruelling and, at times, “difficult” talks over the Brexit deal on Monday. The recent poll by Belfast Telegraph found only two percent of unionist supporting voters thought the “Protocol is acceptable and the DUP should support” it.

In comparison, 77 percent of all unionist voters agreed the “NI Protocol should be scrapped completely”.

This majority included 43 percent who thought the DUP should immediately withdraw from the Stormont institutions”.

While a further 34 percent thought the Protocol should be scrapped completely, with the DUP using differing political tactics to bring about change.

The poll – which asked 1,290 unionist voters – found 63 percent of voters would support the DUP withdrawing from the Stormont institutions.

However, around 20 percent of unionist voters thought the Protocol could be made to work.

On Monday, Ms Truss met with her EU counterpart- for another round of negotiations over the Protocol.

Mr Šefčovič warned that, if this and other talks soon to follow do not result in a breakthrough, negotiations will be paused at the end of February, according to reports.

This would be to prevent talks from overlapping with the Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign.

Mr Sefcovic reportedly told member states that there is no prospect of an imminent breakthrough.

Speaking to RTE Europe Editor Tony Connelly, sources said Mr Sefcovic found the latest round of talks “frustrating” and “difficult”.

According to Mr Connelly, Ms Truss is wanting to get a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol done quickly.

One EU diplomat is reported to have said: “She refers to the need to renegotiate the Protocol.

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“So all of that is very negative.

“But then it’s in the context of her saying I want to do a deal.

“She wants to do a deal quickly.

“So how do you square that?”

In a Telegraph column, titled ‘I will trigger Article 16 if the EU does not cooperate’, Ms Truss vowed to trigger Article 16 if no cooperation is made.

Ms Truss wrote: “My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

“I want a negotiated solution but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed by Boris Johnson in the Brexit deal – is designed to avoid customs checks along the Irish border. It means goods – including medicines – can flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

However, goods arriving from the rest of the UK are subject to control to ensure they comply with EU standards.

Both sides have threatened to trigger Article 16 as neither side has been able to come to an agreement.

After taking over Brexit duties from Lord Frost, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has vowed to trigger Article 16 if the EU “does not cooperate”.

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