EU 'very confident' on Northern Ireland agreement if UK shows political will

  • UK/EU technical talks resumed in October
  • Ireland hopes compromise can be reached within weeks

DUBLIN, Dec 1 (Reuters) - European Commision President Ursula von der Leyen said she is "very confident" a positive conclusion is within reach to a post-Brexit trade row over Northern Ireland if Britain shows the political will to find a solution.

Technical talks resumed in October for the first time in seven months on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that mandated checks on some goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

"We have always shown flexibility, we will always have a constructive approach to these issues," von der Leyen said ahead of a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin in Dublin.

"If there is the political will in the UK, I am very confident that we can reach a positive conclusion."

Von der Leyen later said in an address to the Irish parliament that her contacts with new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been encouraging and described a workable solution as being within reach.

The EU's Brexit chief, Maros Sefcovic, also said on Thursday that Brussels was ready to double down on efforts to find joint solutions following a phone call with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Cleverly said Britain remained committed to finding a "durable solution".

Britain agreed as part of its EU departure to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the bloc's single market for goods in order to preserve the region's open border with EU member Ireland.

However it has since sought to scrap many of the checks that the deal introduced, which have caused anger among many pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland. Brussels has offered to ease some of the trade barriers.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he hoped a compromise could be reached in coming weeks.

"President, I too believe that a solution is within our grasp if we have a partner to achieve an outcome that we can all accept and move on from," Coveney said in parliament.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin Editing by David Goodman, Conor Humphries and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.