The European Union’s Brexit negotiator said talks with the U.K. could prompt a timely resolution depending on political goodwill, but offered no evidence of a breakthrough after the latest round with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels on Monday he believes it is important that the two sides “dive into questions related to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
“If political goodwill is maintained, our discussions could lead to a timely agreement on durable solutions that would immediately and significantly help operators on the ground,” Sefcovic said. He added that he was “not in the business of setting artificial deadlines but I will act with a sense of urgency” and that he would take stock with Truss by the end of next week.
Truss tweeted after the talks that “teams continue intensive discussions.”
Sefcovic told European lawmakers behind closed doors on Jan. 20 that a window of opportunity to strike a deal with the U.K. will close late next month, also cautioning that he has yet to see a fundamental change in London’s stance despite a positive shift in tone.
Sefcovic said last week that the talks aim to reach an agreement by the end of February, ahead of campaigning for Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May, according to a person familiar with the briefing. Sefcovic and Truss agreed on Jan. 14 to intensify negotiations over the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, with Truss leading the British side for the first time.
Negotiations have been at a virtual standstill for months, with Truss warning that she is prepared to unilaterally override parts of the post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland if talks fail. Sefcovic said recently that the foundation of the entire deal between the U.K. and EU would be jeopardized if London took that step.