POLITICAL leaders in Brussels, London, and Dublin have agreed to set aside their differences around Brexit and cooperate to find solutions to the recent unrest in Northern Ireland.
A string of meetings held on Thursday, April 15 led to an agreement between the three governments to work toward restoring “constructive” relations following some tension in the post-Brexit landscape – especially regarding North-South border relations on the island of Ireland.
Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission, and his British counterpart, Lord David Frost, conducted talks at a dinner meeting in Brussels.
The purpose of the discussions was to provide “a political steer for follow-up discussions that will take place between both teams”, a commission spokesman said, The Irish Times reports.
The talks come ahead of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC), a meeting agreed upon by both the British and Irish governments to thrash out issues relating to Northern Ireland and that will take place in the coming months.
“We haven’t agreed a date yet but certainly I think the governments are in agreement that there should be a BIIGC meeting, and I think we’ll continue to talk about the appropriate time for that,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, told The Irish Times.
Earlier in the week, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis rejected the idea that intergovernmental talks could resolve the recent unrest in the North, as policing powers are devolved to Stormont.
The intergovernmental conference was first set up under the Belfast Agreement to foster co-operation between the Republic and the UK on Northern Ireland, though it has not convened since Boris Johnson became British prime minister in 2019.
Mr Coveney struck an optimistic note following a series of meetings in London this week with key political figures, including Lord Frost, which Mr Coveney described as “a very good meeting . . . on a personal level” and “a good, honest engagement that explored in some detail some of the issues in terms of what’s possible and what’s not”.
Brussels and London have yet to bridge the post-Brexit policy gulf on a variety of issues, especially the Northern Ireland protocol, on which the UK is seeking flexibility from a reluctant EU Commission.
The EU-UK trade deal, struck in 2020, is expected to be voted upon in the European Parliament at the end of this month.
Perhaps a sign of difficulties to come, the leader of the largest party in the parliament, Manfred Weber, called on the commission to “convincingly demonstrate how it will ensure that London will remain faithful to the treaty”.