It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to swiftly climb down after it threatened to put the peace process at risk. New customs checks on goods arriving from the British mainland were suspending earlier this week over fears for the safety of port staff. And Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic were tonight locked in crisis talks to find a solution.
They agreed to hold further discussions in London later this week to find a solution to deescalate the situation after Brussels inflamed tensions when it made a failed attempt to impose a hard Irish border.
Following the meeting, a joint statement said: “The Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee co-chairs held a virtual meeting today with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
“The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Vice-President Šefčovič reiterated their full commitment to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, and to the proper implementation of the Protocol – protecting the gains of the peace process, maintaining stability, and avoiding disruption to the everyday lives of the people of Northern Ireland and a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Both condemned unreservedly any threats or intimidation, noting that the safety and welfare of the people of Northern Ireland and that of our staff would always be the utmost priority.
“After a constructive discussion amongst all parties, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Vice-President Šefčovič concluded that the UK and the EU would immediately work intensively to find solutions to outstanding issues, to be addressed through the Joint Committee.
“The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Vice-President Šefčovič will keep in close contact as this work progresses, and will meet again next week in London.”
In a telephone call earlier today, Mr Johnson told DUP leader Arlene Foster that the EU must take “urgent action” to resolve outstanding problems to the Northern Ireland border plan.
A spokesman added: “The Prime Minister restated his commitment to Northern Ireland as an integral part of our Union and underlined that we would do everything we could to ensure trade continues to flow effectively right across our United Kingdom.”
Under the Brexit agreement, Northern Ireland was granted special status to prevent a hard border with the Republic.
To ensure a frictionless border, the region has effectively remained inside the EU’s single market and checks have been introduced on goods arriving from mainland Britain.
The Government wants to extend these temporary measures to January 23 while permanent solutions are negotiated.
“In all cases, what is now required is political, not technical, solutions,” said Mr Gove.
DUP MP Ian Paisley said his constituents had been made to feel “like foreigners in our country” under the new arrangements.
“Tea and sympathy will not cut the mustard.”
— to www.express.co.uk