Brexit: Insider discusses UK state aid rules
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Taoiseach Micheal Martin ramped up pressure on Boris Johnson’s Government to give concessions as observers say keeping the current status quo threatens the province’s fragile peace. He said “warning each other is over” and called for engagement between the UK and EU to find solutions through the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The politician said: “I think the British Government should acknowledge the approach of the European Union this week in terms of the extension of the grace period and also in terms of the facilitation around the medicines issue.
“There is no question that the European Commission and the European Union leaders have demonstrated goodwill and a generosity of spirit towards the British Government in resolving this issue.
“It really is time for British Government to reciprocate the generosity of spirit that European leaders have shown.”
He added: “And also the sense of flexibility that Europe has indicated to the United Kingdom that it is willing to deploy, in respect of the working-out of issues pertaining to the Protocol.
“The time for warning each other is over.
“It’s time for engagement, constructive engagement, with a view to reaching a resolution.”
Mr Martin cited EU concessions including the bloc extending the grace period on chilled meats as examples of where Brussels has been forthcoming.
“It’s within the withdrawal agreement that the British Government signed up to, and there are mechanisms within that agreement to reach a resolution,” he said.
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While saying that the EU is willing to make changes that can ease disruption to trade flows, the UK must abide by what it signed up to – he warned.
He said: “European leaders have made it clear to me, and the agreement itself makes it clear, that it wants to reduce and minimise disruption to the optimal degree, as much as possible.
“But there was an agreement there. There was a mechanism to resolve the issues within the withdrawal agreement.
“It really needs political will now.
“I have no doubt that if both the United Kingdom Government and EU Commission really engage, this can be resolved.”
His comments came shortly after Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said that the Protocol risks “damage” to the Good Friday Agreement which ended the Troubles.
In a joint article in the Irish Times, they “welcomed” last week’s extension of a grace period in the so-called sausage war but said it “addresses only a small part of the underlying problem”.
They warned that it could “damage” the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 helped to secure peace after decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
To avoid this a “new balance” must be found on customs checks between the province and the UK’s mainland.
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