By James Ward, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for calm in the escalating trade row between the UK and the EU.
Mr Martin has called on both sides to engage, to avoid continuing issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It comes amid concerns that British-made sausages could not be sold in Northern Ireland amid rows over post-Brexit border arrangements.
The Taoiseach said on Tuesday: “It’s important that we do resolve these issues and that trust is built up between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“It’s very important that our trust is built up, because otherwise we will have continuing issues and problems.”
Mr Martin called on UK Brexit minister David Frost to engage with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic to resolve the row.
British environment minister George Eustice has called the situation “bonkers” and accused the EU of being “slow to engage” with efforts to iron out difficulties.
It comes ahead of the ending of a grace period in the agreement between the UK and the bloc which allows Northern Irish shops to continue selling chilled meats – including sausages and mince.
The Taoiseach denied that the EU had not engaged on the issue.
“From our perspective, we would have thought that an agreement on SPS between the UK and European Union would deal with 80 per cent of the issues,” he said.
But with tensions escalating, the Taoiseach has appealed for calm.
Mr Martin added: “The type of Brexit we have creates issues all around in terms of trade between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“There are issues that I think can be reduced in terms of impact between UK goods going to Northern Ireland.
“I think that the beneficial side of the Protocol, which isn’t often referenced, we take the dairy industry on the island of Ireland, for example, the Protocol facilitates the seamless movement of milk north and south.
“We need to stand back, de-politicise this and deal with it as a technical trading issue and get the outstanding issues resolved.”
The row centres on EU fears that goods from Northern Ireland may enter the single market.
Brussels warned it is ready to act “firmly and resolutely” to ensure the UK abides by its commitments in the Northern Ireland Protocol and does not unilaterally grant an extension at the end of June.
Asked if there would be issues should the UK government proceed to grant an extension beyond June, Mr Martin said: “I think we take it step by step.
“I mean, before Christmas we had similar issues. We were heading towards a no-deal Brexit. Maros Sefcovic and David Frost managed to work things out.”
British prime minister Boris Johnson said that “both the UK and the EU have a responsibility to find solutions to address the issues with the Protocol”.