Taoiseach warns Johnson against unilateral action on Northern Ireland Protocol

In a call on Tuesday morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke to the UK prime minister Boris Johnson
Taoiseach warns Johnson against unilateral action on Northern Ireland Protocol

By Dominic McGrath, PA

Updated: 3.30pm

UK-EU discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol need to be intensified, the Taoiseach has told British prime minister Boris Johnson.

In a call on Tuesday morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke to Mr Johnson about the challenges facing Northern Ireland following the Assembly election.

He tweeted: “We both agreed on the need to see the NI Executive formed as soon as possible.

“On the Protocol, I stressed need to intensify EU and UK discussions, and to avoid any unilateral action.”

Following the historic election result at the weekend, Sinn Féin is now the largest party at Stormont and entitled to nominate the first nationalist or republican First Minister.

The DUP, led by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has said it will not enter a new power-sharing Executive until issues with the protocol are solved.

On Monday, Mr Martin had urged the DUP to think again.

He also expressed optimism the EU and the UK could reach an agreement on the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland, which have overshadowed relations between the two sides for months.

Unionists fiercely oppose the creation of new checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin on Monday rejected any suggestion of EU inflexibility on the protocol, which created new checks on trade moving from Great Britain.

Instead, he suggested there is a “landing zone” for a compromise between the two sides.

'Be wise'

Following the Taoiseach's remarks, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also warned that Mr Johnson and Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis need “to be wise to the fact” that 60 per cent of the MLAs in Stormont do not want the Northern Ireland Protocol to be scrapped.

“I think it's important we have the voice of Northern Ireland” in any discussions about resolving the current stand-off, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

Mr Varadkar said it is important to have the voice of Northern Ireland in any discussions on modifications to the protocol, so the best way to address the current situation was for a new Executive to be formed.

The protocol was an international agreement which was there to protect the all-island economy, the Tánaiste said, and any changes to it could not be unilateral.

The UK had to honour the agreement, Mr Varadkar said, adding it was one thing “to go sabre-rattling” but it would be “very serious” if the UK were to “go down that route”.

The UK government had “a moral responsibility” to abide by their word, he said.

When asked if there would be involvement from Dublin or London in such discussions, Mr Varadkar said he would be open to this when it was appropriate.

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