By Gráinne Ní Aodha and Cate McCurry, PA
Ursula von der Leyen has said she is “very confident” a solution will be found on the Northern Ireland Protocol, if there is the political will in the UK Government.
Arriving in Dublin for a two-day visit on Thursday, the European Commission president said the EU and Ireland have always been in “very close co-operation” on Brexit matters.
“It was ironclad and is ironclad, and this is so important,” she said.
“I know that Brexit meant a lot of adaptation for Ireland, but you have done this very successfully as far as I can see it.”
Negotiations are continuing between London and Brussels aimed at securing changes to the protocol to the satisfaction of both sides.
The protocol, a post-Brexit trading arrangement for Northern Ireland designed to avoid a border, has caused some trading issues since its implementation.
🇮🇪 In Dublin today. Very happy to meet @MichealMartinTD.
Thank you for the great cooperation over the past 2.5 years - quite eventful years, too.
In difficult times, you always remained true to our European values.
Go raibh míle maith agat. pic.twitter.com/z0WiTfPjON
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 1, 2022
It has resulted in tension between the EU, the UK and Ireland on how to resolve them, particularly after a Bill was introduced at Westminster to unilaterally remove some trading rules currently in place.
There has been some hope that the new British Government will provide an opportunity to solve the stalemate over the remaining bureaucratic and trading issues.
Ms von der Leyen said on Thursday: “We, the European Union has been listening very carefully to the concerns of people and businesses in Northern Ireland…
“We have always shown flexibility, we will always have a constructive approach to these issues.
“If there is the political will in the UK, I am very confident that we can reach a positive conclusion.”
Ms von der Leyen was greeted by Irish premier Micheál Martin as she arrived at Government Buildings, and will later address Irish parliamentarians.
The EU leader is also due to meet President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin on Thursday.