Northern Irish business groups have expressed optimism over the UK’s chances of reaching a deal with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol following a ‘constructive’ meeting with foreign secretary Liz Truss.
During a virtual session ahead of Truss’ face-to-face meeting with EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic tomorrow, she said that there was “a deal to be done”, according to Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium.
Best chance of a deal?
“Good progress was made before the holidays, especially in medicines, and that is the same collegiate working that we need to see on areas such as customs and SPS checks,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Connolly added that businesses were “under no illusions about the challenges ahead” and that “this is perhaps our last and best chance at reaching an agreement”.
According to Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, Truss said she was keen to make progress quickly and committed to engage with business.
“We reiterated our call for stability, certainty, simplicity and affordability by building on the Protocol allowing us to seize more of the opportunities which have already being grasped by many firms,” he said.
No time frames
The business talks follow separate talks with the DUP and Sinn Fein on Monday, reports the BBC.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he wanted a timeline on how and when changes to the protocol would be made.
No ‘arbitrary time frames’
Speaking during a visit to County Down, NI minister Brandon Lewis said the government would not set “arbitrary time frames”, reports the Standard.
“Our position hasn’t changed – we need to resolve this in a way that works for the people of Northern Ireland, and we want to do that as quickly as possible,” he said.
The DUP, which opposes the Protocol, has pulled back on its threat to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive over the deadlocked talks.
Donaldson has described Truss as “on the same page” as his party.
Irish trade optimism
Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that Irish exporters are optimistic about opportunities to trade with the UK after the “forecasts of doom” surrounding Brexit “lifted strongly”.
“The UK is going to continue to be a key market for Ireland,” said Enterprise Ireland chief executive Leo Clancy. “There is a lot of business to be done there with the levelling up agenda, with a lot of the economic bounce they are seeing as they roll out their stimulus programmes.”