UK's Cleverly: Good signs in talks with EU over N. Ireland

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly looks on as he attends a sidebar meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 20, 2022. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado/Pool/File Photo

BIRMINGHAM, England, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Britain's foreign minister James Cleverly on Tuesday said there were good signs around talks with the European Union to find a solution to the long running post-Brexit trade row over Northern Ireland.

The stand-off over the Northern Ireland protocol is the biggest of several issues straining relations between the EU and Britain, and could lead to a trade war if London presses ahead with legislation effectively tearing up some of the rules.

However, there has been increased optimism about the chances of a deal, with several former hardline Brexit supporters softening their tone towards the EU and Ireland.

Cleverly said improving mood music around talks could mean a deal was struck before the bill took effect. The legislation would unilaterally override parts of the Brexit divorce deal to implement Britain's preferred solution.

"The tone, I think has improved. That's always a good sign. I think there is a recognition that it's in our collective interest to get this resolved. That is a good sign," Cleverly said at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference.

Cleverly said he did not know exactly when the bill would become law, but that the prospect of the legislation coming into force put a helpful timeframe around the negotiations with the EU.

He said he thought the timeframe was "some weeks, rather than many months." However, the bill could face delays in parliament, where many lawmakers in both chambers are opposed to its objectives.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by William James

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