Sefcovic committed to further engagement with Stormont committee, says McGrath

The vice president of the European Commission has promised to continue engagement with a Stormont committee, its chairman has said.

Maros Sefcovic took the unusual step of appearing before a meeting of an Assembly scrutiny committee on Monday.

He appeared virtually at the committee as negotiations between the EU and UK continue following a British request to extend the grace period to delay the introduction of further checks on imports of chilled meats to Northern Ireland.

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic speaking from Brussels during an online meeting with the Northern Ireland executive office committee at Stormont
EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic speaking from Brussels during an online meeting with the Northern Ireland Executive committee at Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

Executive committee chairman Colin McGrath, of the SDLP, paid tribute to Mr Sefcovic extending his appearance at the scrutiny committee.

“It was a very significant opportunity for us to engage with the very highest level of the European Commission. For the vice president of that to actually give us 90 minutes of his time, and especially whenever he had only scheduled 60 minutes, showed us the real interest the European Commission has in finding solutions to the problems there are as a result of Brexit,” he said.

MLAs on the committee represent a diverse range of views, including unionists who oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr McGrath said Mr Sefcovic got the “DUP approach of no, no, nay, nay, never” during the meeting.

“But I think we need to move to the solution mode and be able to help bring the DUP with us to get round the table and find solutions that we need,” he said.

“I think what is important too is that he was able to see that the majority of the committee actually want to see the progression of the Protocol because they see it as being a resolution to the problems of Brexit. I think if he can realise that it is only a minority that don’t agree with the Protocol that should help him in his moves to try and find a resolution to it.”

Mr McGrath said Mr Sefcovic has committed to meeting the committee in person later in the year.