EU awaits signal on Truss protocol at Prague summit – The Irish Times

“Are they serious or not?”

That is the question being asked by politicians and officials in Dublin and Brussels as they reflect on the UK government’s recent sudden wake-up call over the Northern Ireland protocol.

On the EU side, there is hope that a long period of what the bloc has seen as bad faith and inconsistency on the part of the UK (this is of course viewed differently of London) is coming to an end, and there is a prospect of serious negotiations to reach an agreement.

But there is also a lingering mistrust. The current wait-and-see attitude, as reported in the Irish Times on Tuesday, is a function of this hope and distrust. It’s up to the Brits, sources in Dublin and Brussels say, to show they really want to reconnect and do business.

Prime Minister Liz Truss will have a chance to convince the EU she is serious on Thursday when she heads to a meeting of EU leaders in Prague. The gathering of the “European Political Community” – where EU countries and those from non-EU European countries will meet – was designed by French President Emmanuel Macron as a way to keep the UK and potential candidates for EU membership in the conversation.

Baker’s apologies

EU officials concerned about Brexit (much less these days, as Brexit is all but over for most member states) and those in Dublin who are constantly worried about it are waiting to see if Truss uses the meeting to signal that there is substance behind the Steve Baker apologized to Ireland earlier this week and the resumption of talks.

There have been positive signals. While senior officials in Dublin who have spoken privately in recent days have expressed skepticism, sources familiar with the conversations at the highest level say Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been optimistic about a possible deal since meeting the new Prime Minister on the sidelines of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Other sources report some optimism coming from the office of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is believed to be following contacts with Truss.

As always, UK domestic politics look likely to play a decisive role in what unfolds over the coming weeks. Some officials say that with huge pressure on Truss following the mini-budget debacle, she may be inclined to seek a quick win and strike a deal with the EU.

Others warn that precisely because of her sudden – and self-inflicted – political weakness, she is unlikely to be able to ignore the objections of the ultra-Brexiteers who put her in Downing Street (or the DUP) and accept anything that involves a concession to the EU.

Northern Ireland, and wider Anglo-Irish relations, could again be subject to ups and downs in the turmoil that has defined British politics since 2016.

So no change then.

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