THE European Union is “not too impressed” with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s threat to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol if post-Brexit negotiations fail.

Joao Vale de Almeida, the bloc’s ambassador to the UK, said it is unhelpful to “keep agitating the issue” of triggering the mechanism that would override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

It comes as Truss is due to meet her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic for their first face-to-face talks at Chevening House in Kent on Thursday.

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Truss, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said she will suggest “constructive proposals” to Sefcovic, but added she was “willing” to invoke Article 16 if a deal cannot be struck.

The mechanism was put in place to prevent a hard land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party have welcomed Truss’s comments.

Vale de Almeida told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “We’ve heard this before from the Government, so we’re not surprised. We are not too impressed.

“We still believe it’s not very helpful that we keep agitating the issue of Article 16. I think what we should focus on – at least that’s where we are focused on – is trying to find solutions for difficulties in the implementation of the protocol.”

The National:

Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK, left, and Maros Sefcovic, EU Brexit negotiator, right.

He called for “new momentum” in the talks, adding: “We are eager to reconnect but we are even more eager to find compromises because we need to move on. It’s been too long.”

The Foreign Secretary was handed responsibility for the negotiations after Lord Frost resigned as Brexit minister last month.

Truss said it is her “absolute priority” to resolve the “unintended consequences” created by the protocol to maintain peace in Northern Ireland.

She said: “When I see Maros Sefcovic this week for our first face-to-face talks, I’ll be putting forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation.”

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Truss argued the current issues are “myriad and manifest”, citing bureaucracy on sending parcels between Northern Ireland and Britain and problems in procuring kosher food.

She said: “I am prepared to work night and day to negotiate a solution.

“But let me be clear: I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks.

“My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution, but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.”

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Last week, Sefcovic warned that “the foundation of the entire deal” brokered between the UK and the EU will be jeopardised if Truss takes the drastic step.

He told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “This is a very distracting element in the discussions. You try to achieve something together and – bam – there’s the threat of Article 16 again.

“It touches on the fundamentals of our relationship.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol was the most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations, and it is the foundation of the entire deal. Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent that at any cost.”

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who has threatened to remove his ministers from the Stormont Executive if progress is not made on the protocol, welcomed Truss’s statement.

He tweeted: “She is right that unionists do not consent to the protocol and we need the Government to follow through on their commitment to safeguard the Union and protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK Internal Market.”

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie also welcomed Truss’s comments as a “way forward in dealing with trade issues with the EU”, but was critical of Donaldson’s threat to withdraw ministers from Stormont.

The National:

DUP leader Donaldson, right, backed Truss's comments

He said: “It is perfectly reasonable that goods from Great Britain which are destined to stay in Northern Ireland should not be subject to checks, and those goods destined for the EU market can be checked at our ports. We have already recommended legislation to make this workable as far back as 2019.

“It would go a long way to easing a difficult situation and should form the basis for constructive talks with Maros Sefcovic this coming week.

“Multiple engagements with businesses and business representative bodies see this as a pragmatic and sensible solution. Common sense is needed to de-escalate this issue.”