Dutch PM attempts to smooth Northern Ireland row on visit to London

LONDON — Boris Johnson has shown “willingness” to find a solution to the U.K.-EU row over trade arrangements in Northern Ireland, the Dutch prime minister said after a meeting in Downing Street.

Speaking to journalists outside No. 10 Friday, Mark Rutte said if both sides can focus on “practical questions” and avoid “heavy language” it is possible to reach solutions to the problems related to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, which London says causes disruption to trade from Great Britain.

“I notice also with Johnson he realizes this,” Rutte said. “And I notice tonight this willingness.”

The two leaders “discussed extensively” differences on the protocol over dinner, Rutte said. The Dutch leader added he had told Johnson that the EU is committed to finding solutions, while also pointing out that the protocol must be implemented and that “European unity is not up for discussion.”

Rutte’s message echoes European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, who last week urged both sides to “dial down” rhetoric during a visit to Northern Ireland. Šefčovič is preparing to present a fresh package of proposals next month in an attempt to address some of the issues flagged by the U.K. government.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson “outlined the U.K.’s concerns with the current implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the strain it was placing on the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“The leaders agreed on the importance of urgently finding a way forward on the issue.”

During the meeting, the two premiers also discussed bilateral trade and defense cooperation, including as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force and the U.K.-led Carrier Strike Group.

Johnson outlined details of the new AUKUS defense alliance between Britain, Australia and the U.S., and “stressed that the alliance will be an important force for stability in the Indo-Pacific,” the Downing Street spokesperson said.

Rutte and Johnson agreed on the need to make “concrete progress” on tackling climate change ahead of the COP 26 summit in Glasgow in November, they added, amid concerns many countries are yet to make financial commitments.



Source by [author_name]