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Seeking N. Ireland solution, UK foreign minister hosts EU talks

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London, Dec 13, 2022. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP)

LONDON – British Foreign Minister James Cleverly will on Monday seek to inject fresh momentum into talks with the EU on resolving disputes over a post-Brexit trade relationship when he hosts the European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in London.

There is growing optimism in Britain and parts of the EU that a resolution is within reach to the long-running dispute that has overshadowed their relations since the United Kingdom left the bloc three years ago.

Technical talks between officials resumed in October on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that mandated checks on some goods moving to the province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

While Monday's meeting between the politicians is not expected to provide an immediate breakthrough, the hope is the latest talks will give an impetus to accelerate negotiations further in the coming weeks

While Monday's meeting between the politicians is not expected to provide an immediate breakthrough, the hope is the latest talks will give an impetus to accelerate negotiations further in the coming weeks.

The talks will take place at Lancaster House and the Northern Ireland minister Chris Heaton-Harris is expected to take part, according to the UK foreign ministry.

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The Northern Ireland protocol was a key part of the Brexit deal agreed by former prime minister Boris Johnson, but one that successive UK prime ministers have refused to implement.

In order to preserve the peace deal and avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Britain agreed as part of its departure from the EU to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the bloc's single market for goods.

READ MORE: UK, EU agree to work to find solutions on N. Ireland protocol

That has necessitated checks from January 2021 on some goods coming from the rest of the United Kingdom.

But the British government has sought to ease many of the trade barriers ever since the protocol came into effect, leading to accusations from the EU it was trying to backtrack on the protocol.