German ambassador to UK speaks of optimism in finding 'solution' to NI Protocol row
THE German ambassador to the UK has said he is "cautiously optimistic" for a positive outcome from talks between Britain and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Miguel Berger made the comments yesterday as negotiations between the two sides continue.
They followed the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stating discussions between herself and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak were "encouraging".
The negotiations continue as the UK continues to push legislation through Westminster to override parts of the protocol placing a trade border down the Irish Sea.
The UK had previously agreed the protocol as part of its 2019 Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Mr Berger, who became German ambassador to the UK in May of this year, said he believed the ongoing talks could reach a positive conclusion.
"I think now we have a different basis for negotiations. I see an openness to engage," he said.
"There have already been talks and, I would say, yes I am cautiously optimistic because in the end there is a landing zone for the Northern Ireland Protocol's implementation.
"It is possible to find a solution."
Mr Berger said there are political issues such as the reaction of the DUP and the risk of another election in the north, which may also arise, but added "if we speak about the negotiation process, I would say I am cautiously optimistic".
He said that Liz Truss had made "some steps towards Europe" during her brief time as prime minister in the autumn.
"I would say we see in general a different attitude (and) maybe it also has to do with the war in Ukraine," he said.
"Everybody understands that in the West we have more important challenges to face and that democracies should work together and should be able to sort out an issue like Northern Ireland."
Last week, Ursula von der Leyen spoke of her engagement with Mr Sunak while on a visit to Dublin.
In an address to the Dáil, she said: "I'm glad that today our talks with London are marked by a new, more pragmatic spirit because the European Union and the United Kingdom are still members of the same extended family, even if we no longer live in the same house."
The Republic's foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said last week he believes "a solution is within our grasp" on the protocol.