Annalena Baerbock said Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements remained the “Achilles heel” to relations between Britain and the bloc – but said she hope a “responsible and pragmatic” compromise could soon be reached.
“While we cannot turn back the clock, we can decide to step forward into a good common future,” the minister said after meeting foreign secretary James Cleverly in London.
Referring to the Gallagher brothers’ biggest hit in discussing the “bitter” Brexit experience, Ms Baerbock said: “It’s like having lost a family member … we want to leave behind the wounds of the past. Or as we tended to sing when I studied here – don’t look back in anger.”
Mr Cleverly said talks were moving “pretty fast” to resolve the protocol dispute – suggest that Rishi Sunak’s government wanted a deal before the 25th anniversary Good Friday Agreement in April.
“We’re not going to wait for an anniversary, we are working on this with all speed and alacrity, as you would expect, and we will continue to work intensively towards a resolution,” he told reporters at a joint press conference on Thursday.
“We are moving pretty fast and doing a huge amount of good work,” he added. “We very, very much welcome the … much more constructive tone in the conversations that we’ve had between the UK and the [European] Commission.”
While UK and the EU negotiators continue to discuss the protocol ways to ease checks on goods moving between GB and NI, Rishi Sunak’s government maintains it could use a highly-contentious bill to unilaterally overhaul the arrangement if negotiations fail.
Ms Baerbock said the EU was willing to address UK concerns about the protocol “with a spirit of creativity and flexibility” – saying she wanted the positive mood music to lead to “concrete negotiations and decisions so that we can find a solution”.
Meanwhile, No 10 welcomed an apparent shift in tone from the Irish government after premier Leo Varadkar said earlier this week that he felt the protocol “little too strict” and admitted “all sides” had made mistakes during Brexit.
Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said the UK government “have said for some time now that we’ve always felt it was possible to enact the protocol in a way that was flexible, and so obviously those comments are welcome.”
But Mr Varadkar’s spokesperson later said the Irish premier did not intend to suggest that the protocol text – agreed by Boris Johnson’s government – could be renegotiated.
He said the Taoiseach has only been indicating that flexibility over the implementation of the protocol was important.