TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has welcomed the news that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are to meet to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol.
On Sunday, a joint statement from Downing Street and the European Commission confirmed President von Der Leyen would meet with Mr Sunak in London on Monday.
The announcement of the meeting indicates an end could be in sight to resolving issues around the Protocol, which was included as part of the Brexit deal to prevent a hard border in Ireland.
"Today, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak agreed to continue their work in person towards shared, practical solutions for the range of complex challenges around the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland," read the statement.
"President von der Leyen will therefore meet with the Prime Minister in the UK tomorrow."
Commenting following the announcement, Mr Varadkar said it was 'welcome news'.
"I was in contact with President @vonderleyen today and very much welcome news of a meeting in London between @vonderleyen and @RishiSunak tomorrow," he tweeted.
"We should acknowledge the level of engagement between the UK Gov, the European Commission and the NI parties in recent months.”
I was in contact with President @vonderleyen today and very much welcome news of a meeting in London between @vonderleyen and @RishiSunak tomorrow. We should acknowledge the level of engagement between the UK Gov, the European Commission and the NI parties in recent months
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) February 26, 2023
The Protocol has proved contentious with unionists as it effectively creates a border in the Irish Sea, as goods arriving from Great Britain are checked in Northern Ireland, whether or not they are bound for Ireland, which is still in the EU.
One suggestion that has been mooted is for the introduction of green and red lanes in the North, where goods intended to remain in Northern Ireland would pass through the former lane.
Goods bound for Ireland would pass through the red lane, where they would be subject to checks to ensure they meet EU standards.
Earlier on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he believed the British Government had 'made progress' on a deal with Europe.
The former Brexit Secretary told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that the government want to 'shift away from… an approach which is checking every consignment going in from Britain to Northern Ireland to what's called an intelligent-based approach'.
"If there's a real problem and it looks like goods are going on from Northern Ireland, they are checked, but we don't have a tick-box approach," he added.