Taoiseach detects ‘genuine wish’ from Truss to resolve protocol dispute

Taoiseach detects ‘genuine wish’ from Truss to resolve protocol dispute

British prime minister Liz Truss and Taoiseach Micheal Martin attend a Service of Reflection for Queen Elizabeth II at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2022.

The Taoiseach has said he detects a genuine wish from Liz Truss to resolve the impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Micheal Martin said there was a need for the EU and UK to now enter a process to negotiate a settlement over the contentious post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Officials from London and Brussels are set to hold discussions on the outstanding issues following a call on Friday between Britain's foreign secretary James Cleverly and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic.

The protocol, which was agreed by the UK and EU as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, has created trade barriers on goods being shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Micheal Martin (Niall Carson/PA)

The arrangements are vehemently opposed by many unionists in Northern Ireland and the DUP is currently blocking the formation of a powersharing executive in Belfast in protest.

The British government will assume a legal duty to call a snap Assembly election in the region if a devolved administration is not reconstituted by the end of October.

Mr Martin was commenting on the prospects of a deal on the protocol emerging before that deadline.

“I had a positive and warm meeting with Liz Truss when we met the weekend of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth,” the Taoiseach told RTÉ.

“I did to be fair detect a genuine engagement and a wish to get this issue resolved.

“I think she would prefer a negotiated solution and the subsequent meeting between Liz Truss and Ursula von der Leyen (European Commission president) went well also and I think in many respects it’s about getting this into a process between the European Union and the United Kingdom to get this issue resolved once and for all, not least because of the issues (like) the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis.

“Europe and United Kingdom need to be acting together on that.

“Really the protocol should not be an issue causing that degree of distress in the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”

Last week, Ms Truss said she remained open to a negotiated solution but again warned she would act unilaterally to address problems with the protocol, by way of domestic legislation at Westminster, if a deal with Brussels proved elusive.

The British government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, would empower ministers to rip up parts of the protocol without the approval of the EU.

Brussels says it would represent a breach of international law and could prompt retaliatory action.

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