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Back bets after an early confrontation with Brussels

Liz Truss will pull out of an early confrontation with the EU over post-Brexit trade rules with Northern Ireland, with Brussels and Dublin hoping for a narrow “opportunity” to re-establish relations with the new prime minister.

Truss’ allies say the new prime minister will not trigger the emergency provision overriding Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol in the coming weeks, a move EU diplomats say will be seen as “a provocative action”.

The group of new prime ministers has consider using Article 16 because the so-called ‘extension period’ that the EU and the UK have agreed to in 2020 to allow for lighter contact controls on trade between the UK and Northern Ireland will expire on September 15th.

However, EU officials now expect Truss to ask for an extension of the grace period and both sides agree to “pass it over” to buy time and open the door for negotiations to try to end the status quo. difficult deadlock.

“I would be surprised if we went the Article 16 route, even though we don’t rule anything out,” said one Truss ally.

Truss pledged to pass legislation to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, a move EU diplomats see as “putting a loaded gun”. Talks have been on hold since February.

The Prime Minister of Ireland, Michael Martin, said that Truss’ election opened an “opportunity” to re-establish relations.

He said in a statement: “I hope we can use the coming period to prioritize EU-UK engagement and reach agreed outcomes on issues around implementation. the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I look forward to our close cooperation and early engagement as we confront important issues on these islands and globally.”

Truss supporters in the Brexit Pro-European Study Group say they are comfortable with Article 16 not being used but say Truss must push ahead with legislation unless the EU makes major concessions on the protocol.

These include the removal of many checks for goods moving from the UK intended to remain in Northern Ireland – the use of red and green lanes at ports – and the termination of the jurisdiction of the Public Court. European management in the region.

The bill has passed the stages of the House of Representatives and is now awaiting detailed consideration in the House. EU diplomats argue that Truss needs to put the bill on ice to allow for new negotiations. “That’s the bare minimum,” said one.

Senior EU officials argue that the UK’s softer approach to asking Brussels for an extension is preferred over the use of Article 16. One side argues that it will allow both. the party “continues to dispute” in the short term.

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Europe at Eurasia Group, a consulting firm, thinks the decision not to trigger Article 16 will create space for diplomacy, although the EU’s flexibility will ultimately depend on Truss’ approach to the Northern Ireland bill.

He added: “European Commission and Council lawyers hate the idea of ​​extending the grace period, but politically important voices in Brussels and EU capitals recognize this well. than a major Article 16 war.

The European Commission declined to comment. Bernd Lange, a veteran German MEP who co-chairs the European parliament’s liaison group on the UK, said he expected a truce. “What she actually does as prime minister may be different from what she promised during an election campaign,” he said.

An EU diplomat warned that the EU would not make further concessions on the protocol in return for Britain’s return to negotiations. “We went to the limit of what was possible while not jeopardizing the single market,” he said.

Tory Eurosceptics wants the EU to agree a new mandate for negotiators to allow for a fundamental rewrite of the protocol.

Still, the mood among senior officials attending the Anglo-Irish Association’s annual conference in Oxford last weekend was relatively amicable.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said any gesture of sincere engagement from London would receive a “very generous response from the EU”.

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