Brexiteer minister Steve Baker apologised to Brussels today, claiming that his and some of his colleagues’ behaviour during EU negotiations was inappropriate.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the former European Research Group depth chair admitted that he had not acted “in a way that encouraged Ireland, the European Union, and others to trust us” in negotiations.
He went on to say that he had said “sorry” to Irish leaders after the Queen’s death, and that he believes “the ice is thawing a bit” as a result.
“As one of the people who perhaps acted with the most determination to get the UK out of the EU, I think we have to bring some humility to this situation,” he told Conservative Party members.
“And it’s with humility I want to accept and acknowledge that I and others did not always behave in a way that encouraged Ireland, the European Union and others to trust us to accept they have legitimate interests.
“Legitimate interests that we’re willing to respect because they do and we are willing to respect them.
“And I’m sorry about that because relations with Ireland are not where they should be and we all need to work extremely hard to improve them.”
Britain and Brussels are currently at odds over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was signed as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in 2019.
Unionists argue that the EU’s strict interpretation of the agreement has weakened the province’s position within the United Kingdom.
They claim that bureaucratic customs checks have caused trade frictions.
Attempts to find a solution to the Protocol’s problems have so far failed, with a lack of trust between the two sides being largely blamed for the impasse.