By Dominic McGrath, PA
The only way out of the current impasse on the Northern Ireland Protocol is for the UK to sit down and talk with the EU, the Taoiseach has said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin met Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill in Dublin on Monday, as UK prime minister Boris Johnson held talks with parties in Northern Ireland amid political deadlock over the post-Brexit arrangements in the North.
Mr Martin was speaking after a call with European Council president Charles Michel.
“It seems to me to be very, very difficult to comprehend that in any jurisdiction in the modern world, where we have had an election, particularly in the European context, the idea that a parliament is prevented from convening is hard to comprehend,” he said.
“The people have spoken, the people have elected their representatives. At a minimum it seems, without any delay, the Assembly should be established, of course followed by the formation of the Executive.
Good phone call with @eucopresident Charles Michel today.
We both agreed the only way forward on the Protocol is through substantive talks between the EU and UK.
Any unilateral action is damaging and cannot help.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 16, 2022
“Charles Michel and I both agreed that the only way to resolve this issue is through substantive talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom Government.”
Mr Martin said that there had been an understanding that the Assembly election would be followed by a “renewed focus on talks” between the UK and the EU.
He also said that it was important the “landing zone” desired by the UK is “very clear”.
“The only way to flesh that out is really to re-engage and have substantive talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“The UK Government has issues, but I can’t see any other way to resolve those issues other than through negotiations and substantive talks,” he said.
He did not rule out face-to-face talks between himself and UK prime minister Boris Johnson, but he said that in the “first instance” substantive talks had to take place between London and Brussels.
Mr Martin stressed the role the Irish Government can play as a facilitator in talks between the two sides.
He also spoke of “dismay” at the idea the UK could take unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol, while adding that Mr Johnson had made “important” points in an article written for the Belfast Telegraph.
In the article Mr Johnson said the UK will have a “necessity to act” if the EU is unwilling to reach a compromise in the deepening row over the protocol.
However, he stressed the UK government remained open to “genuine dialogue” with the European Commission.
He said the protocol had been negotiated in “good faith”, adding that “those who want to scrap the protocol, rather than seeking changes, are focusing on the wrong thing”.
Mr Martin said on Monday: “He does accept that there’s a need for a protocol. He’s not talking about getting rid of the protocol.
“But really at the end of the day, the only way this can be resolved is through substantive discussions.”