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UK and EU hope for deal to end Northern Ireland feud as prime minister allies say Brussels ‘waking up’

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Britain and EU are both hoping for a deal to end Brexit feud over Northern Ireland as Liz Truss allies say Brussels is ‘awakening’ to threat of collapse with Stormont’s election deadline this month

  • There is growing hope for a deal to end the Brexit feud over Northern Ireland
  • Britain is confident EU is now convinced of ‘how serious’ the crisis could be
  • Elections are scheduled in Northern Ireland if power-sharing is not restored by October 28

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There is growing hope for a deal to end the Brexit squabble over Northern Ireland, with Britain and the EU resuming negotiations.

The government is confident that Brussels is now convinced of ‘how serious’ the crisis in Northern Ireland could become without a breakthrough this month.

A source said EU chief Ursula von der Leyen was beginning to “get it”.

Liz Truss has passed legislation in Westminster to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But the prime minister also recently expressed her preference for a negotiated solution to the post-Brexit trade settlement dispute.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic are expected to meet in the next two weeks for protocol discussions.

The focus on reaching a deal has been heightened by an approaching deadline at the end of this month.

New elections are scheduled in Northern Ireland unless a new power-sharing government can be formed in Stormont before October 28.

Prime Minister's allies are convinced Brussels is now convinced of 'how serious' the crisis in Northern Ireland could get without a breakthrough this month

Prime Minister’s allies are convinced Brussels is now convinced of ‘how serious’ the crisis in Northern Ireland could get without a breakthrough this month

A senior source in the UK government told MailOnline that Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, now “understands” the gravity of the crisis.

New elections are scheduled in Northern Ireland unless a new power-sharing government can be formed in Stormont before October 28

New elections are scheduled in Northern Ireland unless a new power-sharing government can be formed in Stormont before October 28

New elections are scheduled in Northern Ireland unless a new power-sharing government can be formed in Stormont before October 28

The DUP is currently blocking the functioning of Stormont institutions as part of their protest against the protocol, which they say threatens their position in the UK due to trade barriers across the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland’s minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, warned last month that the prospect of an election before Christmas was not a ‘useful threat’.

A leading source in the UK government told MailOnline that Ms von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, now “understands” the gravity of the crisis in Northern Ireland.

“We and (Irish Prime Minister) Michael Martin have terrified the EU about the need for rapid progress,” they said.

‘The deadline is October 28, after which we have to call elections. And that poses a huge risk, as no one knows if Sinn Fein would boycott them.

“Even if the DUP manages to gain more support, would Sinn Fein be willing to hire Deputy Prime Minister after the Unionists refused?

Ursula von der Leyen didn’t seem to understand how serious this could be, but there are signs she’s getting it now.

“There is a landing zone, but we have to find it quickly.”

The protocol, which aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, will allow Northern Ireland to effectively be part of the EU’s internal market.

Both the British government and Unionists in Northern Ireland have attacked the ‘bureaucratic’ controls imposed on goods transported across the Irish Sea.

Mr Cleverly and Mr Sefcovic had a ‘good conversation’ on the phone last week, in which they agreed to meet soon for protocol discussions.

James Slim

James Slim

Maros Sefcovic

Maros Sefcovic

Foreign Minister James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic are expected to meet in the next two weeks for protocol discussions

The times reported that new negotiations could lead the UK government to admit, at its insistence, that the European Court of Justice has no role in overseeing the protocol

The EU would also be willing to waive controls on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

An EU source told the paper: ‘It is not in either side’s interest that this hangs over us if we have bigger issues that we need to work with.

“Until we get into the details… we can’t be sure we can make it work, but there’s a new willingness.”

Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney was due to meet Mr Cleverly tonight for dinner in London, while he and Mr Heaton-Harris will co-chair a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference tomorrow.

Prior to his trip to London, Mr Coveney said the ‘mood music’ over the Protocol dispute had ‘changed quite fundamentally’.

“We will not only work on the relationships to restore trust, but also work on solutions in a practical way, and I think that process will start in earnest this week,” he added.