Ireland will be “the adults in the room” during any negotiations between the European Union and the UK over the Northern Ireland protocol, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.
His comments come after Britain set out steps on Tuesday to try to break the deadlock with the European Union on trade with Northern Ireland, lining up a new law that would effectively override parts of a Brexit deal and further inflame ties with Brussels.
In a statement to parliament, British foreign secretary Liz Truss said planned legislation would ease the movement of goods, apply Britain's tax regime in Northern Ireland and hand London more say over the laws governing the region.
Mr Varadkar told Newstalk Breakfast on Wednesday that it was difficult to know if the UK government could be trusted and if it could honour any agreement or concessions made.
He said the protocol should remain in place and Ireland was happy to help come up with solutions. However, there was an atmosphere of mistrust and there was concern that any agreement could be breached. “There is an urgent need to rebuild trust,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said British prime minister Boris Johnson needed to understand what would happen to the union if solutions that were not wanted were imposed.
The legislation proposed by the UK, to be introduced within weeks, would create a new green channel allowing all goods British suppliers say are destined only for Northern Ireland to enter from Britain without checks, with a red channel for goods that will move into the European single market.
Goods made in Northern Ireland would no longer be required to comply with EU standards as long as they accord with British ones.
In addition, the protocol’s rules on VAT and state aid would be scrapped and the European Court of Justice would no longer have any role in adjudicating disputes.
Mr Varadkar said there could be a trusted trader system which would allow certain goods to be sent from the UK to Northern Ireland by chain stores without checks.
The Tánaiste also noted that the absence of the Executive in the North was having an impact, and it was really important that it get up and running. He said any attempt by the UK government to dictate what happens in Northern Ireland would be against the democratic will of the people, the majority of whom had voted in support of retaining the Protocol.