European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic has called on politicians to “dial down the rhetoric” over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Sefcovic was reacting after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party could collapse Stormont within weeks if changes to the protocol are not delivered.
The vice-president is in Northern Ireland for a two-day visit in which he will meet with business leaders and politicians to discuss issues with the implementation of the protocol, which has created trading barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
He spoke to PA news agency after meeting with business representatives in Newry and reacted to the DUP decision to ramp up their campaign of opposition to the post-Brexit arrangements.
He said: “I already had conversations with Sir Jeffrey a couple of weeks ago.
“I will see him this afternoon as I will see also the other political leaders.
“We will have the opportunity to discuss this face to face and my message will be ‘let’s work on the concrete problems’.
“Let’s focus on the issues which are the most important for the people of Northern Ireland, let’s be constructive, let’s dial down the political rhetoric, let’s bring calm and focus on what is our task to accomplish.
“I know that Sir Jeffrey is a very experienced politician and I know that he wants the best for Northern Ireland and I can assure him that is my intention as well.”
Mr Sefcovic said the purpose of his trip to Northern Ireland was to find out “face-to-face” what the problems are with the implementation of the protocol.
He said: “I came here to listen, to learn what are the concrete problems that the people of Northern Ireland are facing with the implementation of the protocol.
“But I am also here to talk about opportunities the protocol is bringing, especially to the economy and of course the people of Northern Ireland, and I am starting with the business representatives.
“I just had a very inspiring meeting with representatives of companies who told me over the last 10-15 years this border region was completely transformed thanks to the great co-operation between the EU, the UK and Ireland and it has brought a lot of business opportunities, it brought peace, it brought security and I think this is what we want to achieve also with the proper implementation of the protocol.
“I know there are some who are opposing, I know there are a lot of people who are supporting but I want really to hear from the stakeholders what are the concrete problems so we can focus on them and help to resolve the remaining outstanding issues.”
Mr Sefcovic also reacted to the announcement on Monday by the UK Government that it is extending grace periods on some Irish Sea border checks.
He said: “What we decided to do was that we are taking note of that decision.
“As you know we didn’t proceed with the legal action at this stage because we want to create political space for the negotiations.
“We are talking over the last few weeks constructively on solving the issues linked with the protocol and I hope that also the way that we handled Monday’s announcement coming from London just proves that we are ready to do our utmost to look for every possible solution within the protocol to resolve the problems.”