The European Commission will present a package of measures to try to solve the problems of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the next few weeks, according to Ireland's Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

She also said the EU will try to help British Prime Minister Boris Johnson achieve a successful outcome to the COP 26 climate change conference, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow next month.

In an interview with RTÉ News during a visit to London, the Financial Services Commissioner said the protocol will not be renegotiated.

However, she said: "Within a few weeks time there will be a considerable package to address those really specific concerns, and I would hope that we can all move forward, implement, deal with the immediacy of the difficulties."

The most high profile of those issues are rules on the licensing and distribution of medicines in Northern Ireland.

Commissioner McGuinness said the EU will change its own rules to ease the situation.

"The European Union has no desire, and would never (seek to) deprive the people of Northern Ireland from supply of medicine so we will fix that, that is essential," she said.

In the other key area of contention - veterinary and food safety checks and controls, known as SPS checks - she said the EU's own research in Northern Ireland has found support there among business and political leaders for an SPS deal between the UK and EU to ease the burdens on importers and exporters, but this was not necessarily the view in London.

Ms McGuinness said: "Voices in Northern Ireland want an agreement - an SPS as we call it - agreement on these issues. I'm not so sure that that's the view within London, within the political bodies. But I would ask them to look at that because it will be a big part of the solution.

"To be very clear, we do not see any solutions emerging from opening everything to renegotiation.

"We have to solve the problems as they exist on the ground - and I would really stress that the effort in Brussels, led by Maros Šefcovic to find practical solutions and to bring our member states with us on this is immense, and I believe we will deliver on that in finding solutions."

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European Commission vice president Maros Šefcovic is in charge of working through problems in the post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the UK.

He is the co-chair of the bodies that oversee the UK's Withdrawal Agreement (including the Northern Ireland Protocol) and the bodies dealing with the evolving future relationship with Britain under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

He has been working on an EU response to the British government document published in July by his UK counterpart David Frost, calling for radical changes to the protocol.

That paper also said condition in Northern Ireland justify the British invoking Article 16 of the protocol, allowing them to suspend its operation temporarily, and forcing the two sides into a negotiation.

With the Conservative party conference starting in a week's time, speculation about the UK side triggering Article 16 is starting to mount.


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On a visit to London over the past few days, Commissioner McGuinness has been focusing on areas of potential cooperation with the UK, including on the financing of measures to combat climate change.

She met the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, to discuss digital finance, money laundering concerns and climate finance - how the massive changes in the way we live and work are going to be paid for, an described the meeting as "really good".

"Despite Brexit, there are things we need to talk to each other about and work together on. And I've been really pleased by that reaction because we have COP 26 Coming up in Glasgow, the European Union will be there, we'll be talking about what we're doing, and we want to work with the UK to make COP 26 a success," she said.

"Despite all our difficulties - and it hasn't been easy since 2016 - we are duty bound to work together, despite our differences, to find solutions rather than create problems.

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"And I think when I'm here in London I appreciate more and more that we have an awful lot of things in common, and we can achieve much more if we work together for this global efforts which faces us.

"If we think that Covid or Brexit, were big problems to deal with, we have no idea of the immense challenge of climate change.

"Despite a sense of fragmentation, we have to find ways of working really well together. And as I visited London, I feel a real sense that that is also how my counterparts feel - that we have differences and we have tough conversations, but we have a common sense of duty to work on these big global challenges."

Ms McGuinness said: "The financial system - for which I have responsibility at an EU level - is pivotal towards delivering on the European Green Deal: we need vast amount of private capital to move towards what is sustainable.

"We've done a lot of work which we're happy to share with the UK and indeed all global partners, and so that we're all, if you like singing off the same hymn sheet.

"If we don't succeed, if we don't get this finance for this massive transition, then we fail the next generation."