Britain and Ireland talk up improved mood in N.Ireland negotiations

  • UK and Irish ministers upbeat after meeting
  • Coveney: 'Genuine effort' by UK to resolve trade issues
  • Heaton-Harris: Timeline for resolution is 'fool's gold'

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Britain and Ireland on Friday said that the mood had improved around talks to resolve a post-Brexit row over trade involving the British province of Northern Ireland.

Following a lengthy stalemate, Britain and the European Union resumed talks this week on how to fix problems with the Brexit divorce deal relating to the flow of goods between Britain, Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

Talks have been given new impetus by the election of Liz Truss as British leader and a looming deadline in Northern Ireland, where the row has stopped a devolved administration from being formed and which may trigger fresh elections.

Rifts between Britain and the EU increased when Britain proposed to effectively tear up parts of the Brexit divorce deal with a bill that is currently moving through parliament.

Speaking after an Anglo-Irish conference in London, Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney said that conversations with Britain had improved recently and there was a genuine effort to solve the problems which had emerged after Brexit.

"I think the conversations we're having now with the British government certainly suggest to me that we are in a different space now, one we haven't been in for quite some time, where there is a genuine effort ... on actually how we can solve these problems together," Coveney told reporters.

The conference between senior British and Irish ministers was not directly linked to the Brexit trade negotiations.

Britain's Northern Ireland minister Chris Heaton-Harris said Britain was entering into the technical talks with the EU in "good faith and good humour", while Coveney said those discussions had gone "reasonably well" after restarting this week, though neither went into detail.

Heaton-Harris said he hoped a deal could be reached which meant he did not have to execute Britain's back-up plan to take unilateral action and override the Brexit deal.

He reiterated that he was required in law to call fresh elections in Northern Ireland unless rival parties there agreed to form a power-sharing executive by Oct. 28.

While both said progress on the protocol could help re-establish the executive, Heaton-Harris said it was "fool's gold" to talk about timelines, and Coveney said it was "completely unrealistic" for everything to be agreed in three weeks.

"The starting point here is to build a bit of trust," Coveney said. "Now we need to move to the next step, which is the difficult stuff."

Reporting by William James, Muvija M and Alistair Smout; Editing by Sarah Young, Michael Holden, William Maclean

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