'Must nail this' Taoiseach says UK must engage 'proactively' with EU to resolve Protocol issues
The Taoiseach also said the idea of a border poll was “nearly buried” in Sinn Féin’s manifesto
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the DUP was wrong to place conditions on power sharing in order to re-establish a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland following the Assembly election.
Mr Martin said the UK government now needs to engage “proactively” with the European Union to resolve issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, for which the unionist parties and the UK are demanding further changes.
"We have to nail this," the Taoiseach said of demands for changes to the Protocol, adding that negotiations on changes to the deal governing trade had already ensured full access in Northern Ireland to products such as medicines.
He said the key objective is to enable trade to be “as seamless as possible”.
“Progress has been made already on medicines, huge progress was made in relation to that,” Mr Martin said. “It has been made, we have to kind of nail some of this now, the election is over, and progress has been made very substantially on the medicines front and again we’re prepared to engage.”
He also said the result of the election was significant.
“Yes, in my view, I think everyone should reflect on the result, it is a significant result with Sinn Féin and a nationalist party now in a position to have the First Minister. If you look at the election campaign, all of the parties, bar the TUV, focused on cost-of-living, the very basic bread and butter issues that affect people,” he said.
“We do hear the concerns that people have about the operation of the Protocol, the European Union has signaled and already demonstrated in concrete terms its capacity to be flexible, to advance in terms of making the operation of the Protocol better for all concerned.
“The United Kingdom government has to now engage proactively with the EU to get issues around the Protocol resolved, it won’t be removed but it’s important that it’s made to work for all concerned and that is possible if there is a political will on all sides to do it.
Mr Martin said this election was focused on the current topical issues and political parties could “lose out” if they do not respond to this.
“Essentially the real lessons from this election are that people want their public representatives to fulfil their mandate, to take their seats and to make the Executive work for the people of Northern Ireland,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“This was very much an election fought on current topical issues that affect people in their daily lives and therefore I think parties could lose out if they do not respond to what people said to them on the doorsteps in relation to those bread-and-butter issues.
“The difficulty here is if issues around the Protocol were resolved before the election, it would never have been enough.
“In my view the parties should meet, they should form an Elective and parallel with that the discussions with the EU and the United Kingdom should take up a greater intensity now after the election.”
Mr Martin said he does not think the British Government’s assessment of the European Union’s position on the Protocol is “fair”.
He said the EU will need a clear indication that “people are in the mood” for resolving issues around the Protocol.
“I think the European has demonstrated flexibility but every time up to now that the EU has demonstrated flexibility, it hasn’t been reciprocated. I think the moment is now for both the EU and the UK,” he said.
“No one in Northern Ireland has yet said to me that they want to stop any access or cease access to the EU single market.
“My view is, the British government wants to bring this to a conclusion, the British government has said consistently that the whole reason in the last British general election was to get Brexit done.
“Any further negative developments on this front would prove that Brexit isn’t being done. I would like to think that the British government will approach this with a determination to get this resolved sensibly with the EU.
“To enable trade to be as seamless as possible is the key objective. We’re prepared to engage but the European Union will need a clear indication that people are in the mood for settling this and for resolving this.”
The Taoiseach said the idea of a border poll was “nearly buried” in Sinn Féin’s manifesto. He said it was not the dominant issue of the campaign.
“For the duration of the election there was no talk about a United Ireland. We all support a United Ireland, but it was striking, and this has to be said, that was not the mandate sought by Sinn Féin in the last three weeks,” he said.
“The border poll was nearly buried from its documentation and its manifesto. And as soon as the votes are counted it’s brought back into centre stage.
“The clear message for me from the election is people want the institutions to work, they want the fully functioning Executive.”
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