'Cordial and constructive meeting' between EU and UK officials over Northern Ireland Protocol

Chris Heaton-Harris, James Cleverly and Maros Sefcovic held a meeting in London

A meeting in London to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol between Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič has been described as "cordial and constructive".

The meeting, which was also attended by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, saw the two sides reach a deal on the issue of EU access to British IT systems.The protocol is a trade agreement which was made between the UK and EU during Brexit.

A joint statement, issued after the meeting said, the officials "took stock of work to find joint solutions to the concerns raised by businesses and communities in Northern Ireland. The meeting was cordial and constructive".

"They underlined the EU and UK's shared commitment to protect the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement in all its parts, while protecting the integrity of both the EU Single Market and the UK internal market.

"They agreed that while a range of critical issues need to be resolved to find a way forward, an agreement was reached today on the way forward regarding the specific question of the EU's access to UK IT systems.

"They noted this work was a critical prerequisite to building trust and providing assurance, and provided a new basis for EU-UK discussions.

"EU and UK technical teams will work rapidly to scope the potential for solutions in different areas on the basis of this renewed understanding, and the Foreign Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and Vice President Šefčovič would take stock of progress on January 16."

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly thanked Maroš Šefčovič for the meeting.

"We share the same focus, finding the best outcome for Northern Ireland," he tweeted.

"Today's progress on data sharing marks a positive step in discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol."

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