‘Call their bluff, Liz!’ Ann Widdecombe tells Truss to ‘change ball game’ in Brexit talks

EU unimpressed over Liz Truss’s post-Brexit threats

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The former Tory minister said the move would “change the ball game” in Brexit talks as it would show Brussels that Britain means business. Ms Widdecombe’s comments come as the Foreign Secretary, who took over from Lord Frost following his resignation, is holding talks with her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in a bid to break the deadlock over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Former MEP Ms Widdecombe told Express.co.uk: “I think she’ll do well because she’s a pretty determined lady and she’s got all the same attitudes that Frost had.

“But I think sooner or later we’ve got to call the EU’s bluff and I think she will do that.

“Let her get on with it.

“I actually think that is now what we should do.

“We wouldn’t have to do it for more than five minutes because once they realised that we really were serious, it would change the ball game completely.”

Ms Truss previously warned she is “willing” to invoke Article 16, which would unilaterally override parts of the post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, if a deal cannot be struck.

The Foreign Secretary is holding negotiations with the European Commission vice-president at her Chevening country retreat on Thursday and Friday.

Speaking ahead of the crunch meeting, Ms Truss warned the EU must show a “pragmatic approach” to the issues created by the Protocol, which effectively creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain in order to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

She said: “There is a deal to be done that protects peace in Northern Ireland, defends our Union, and maintains the integrity of the United Kingdom and EU.

“But it will require a pragmatic approach from the EU.

“I will be putting forward practical, reasonable solutions starting from these fundamental principles, with a view to agreeing a plan for intensive negotiations.

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“The EU has a clear responsibility to help fix the myriad problems caused by the protocol and protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“As fellow believers in liberty and democracy, we should be capable of reaching an agreement that delivers for Northern Ireland and allows us to unleash the full potential of our relationship.”

Downing Street said the UK still believes the conditions for triggering Article 16 have been reached but is focused on trying to resolve them through negotiations.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We need to fix the problems in the Protocol in order to protect the Belfast Agreement and the peace process.

“The Foreign Secretary will be putting forward practical and reasonable solutions with a view to agreeing a plan for intensive negotiations.

“We very much believe there is a deal to be done but the EU must show pragmatism.

“It remains our strong preference to reach a negotiated solution, which is what you can see we are seeking to achieve today.”

Mr Sefcovic said the talks offer the opportunity to build on progress made last month on the issue of medicines.

He tweeted: “In Dec, we delivered on medicines. Now we have an opportunity to do so on other issues, building on the EU’s far-reaching proposals. My objective: stability, predictability in NI.”

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