'Absolutely no chance' of border coming back says Micheál Martin

'Absolutely no chance' of border coming back says Micheál Martin

Micheal Martin: 'Brexit has not gone away.' File picture.

Micheál Martin has insisted there is no danger of a border returning on the island of Ireland, despite the high risk of a no-trade deal Brexit occurring.

Speaking exclusively to the Irish Examiner ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting — where his Government will approve its so-called doomsday Brexit memo as to how the country will respond to a no-deal on January 1 — the Taoiseach said he is concerned that a deal has not yet been agreed.

Mr Martin was responding to reports which suggested Downing St is about to introduce legislation which would unwind the Withdrawal Agreement and undermine the Northern Ireland protocol.

Whereas Leo Varadkar described the leak as “sabre-rattling”, Mr Martin said he is “concerned about the lateness of the issue” in terms of the lack of resolution in the talks.

Brexit has not gone away. It has the potential to have a profound impact on jobs and the economy.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is an international treaty and we expect the UK Government to implement and to adhere to what was agreed. We trust them to do so or they would render the talks process null and void,” he said.

The Taoiseach made clear he was assured by Downing Street that they are committed to implementing the protocol and not undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

“They issued a statement they would fully implement the protocol. We are mindful that negotiations are intensifying and stories like this will be part of that negotiation process,” he said.

The Taoiseach said that there is the potential for “different interpretations” of where policy positions actually lie but said he is slow to overreact.

“In terms of different interpretations, we don’t want to jump into that,” he said.

“We are conscious of what is going on here but I want to make it very clear that any international agreement must be honoured,” he added.

“The landscape will completely change come January 1 for businesses. My advice is to follow the guidance of the Government to ensure you are up to speed with regulations for what you will need come January 1,” he said.

Asked if there was any danger of a border returning on the island of Ireland given the worrying noises from Downing Street, the Taoiseach said emphatically: “Absolutely not.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said his government was proposing "limited clarifications" to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal.

His spokesman said discussions were continuing with the EU to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the Northern Ireland protocol, intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border with the Republic once the transition is over.

He said the legislative changes were a necessary "safety net" in the event that they were unable to come to an agreement.

In Dublin, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney will bring the final Brexit preparedness memo to cabinet today.

This is a cross-government plan involving multiple departments to prepare the country for the end of the transition period and a new way of trading with the UK.

The plan outlines two possible scenarios at the end of this year:

  • A limited Free Trade Agreement (including fisheries) which Michel Barnier is trying to negotiate...or
  • A no trade deal Brexit with the EU and UK trading on WTO terms, including tariffs and quotas, from January 1 next.

According to sources, the plans’ language is stark that either outcome will involve fundamental change for any business that trades goods “to, from or through” the UK.

There was a stark warning from Brussels to the reports.

“The full implementation of the withdrawal agreement and in particular the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland are essential,” a spokesman for the European Commission said.

“These are legal obligations under international law, this is a matter of trust, this is a prerequisite, a precondition for the negotiations on the future partnership. I think that’s clear and I don’t think we need to say any more.”


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