Micheál Martin discusses Northern Ireland Protocol
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Former Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson also called on the UK Government to immediately “force the EU to the [neogiating] table” to resolve issues with the Protocol. The Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
This means checks on goods being sent from Great Britain into the single market in some cases could result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.
But following unionist anger over the Protocol at Stormont and from traders over the complex red tape on moving goods from the UK to Northern Ireland, Brexit Minister Lord Frost put forward plans in a Command Paper in July to completely renegotiate the post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Mr Robinson, a veteran DUP politician who led Northern Ireland from 2008 until 2016, backed the Command Paper which he said “recognised the Protocol was both harmful and untenable.”
He added: “The Command Paper signified that action would follow to resolve the damage being caused to Northern Ireland but if the government is waiting for the EU to offer up a satisfactory alternative or to agree any UK proposals for change it will wait forever.”
Negotiations are currently ongoing with the EU to find a solution to the Protocol, but Mr Robinson stressed Northern Ireland could not “function on EU-time”, adding: “The government must act now.”
Mr Robinson made clear: “The Northern Ireland Protocol will spread like a cancer through the blood and bones of the Union unless it is removed.
“Unionist politicians made their disapproval clear to the prime minister, to the secretary of state, to the Brexit minister and the EU, they raised the issue in Parliament and in the Assembly, made their views known to EU leaders and anyone else who would listen.
“Most people have and even those who thought we were making bricks out of straw now accept the evolving, spreading, and pervasive impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on even the simple things of life.”
Mr Robinson’s calls come as crunch talks between Lord Frost and his Brussels counterpart Maros Sefcovic are set to begin again next week.
Lord Frost has made clear that Britain will demand a renegotiation of the Protocol to fix what it sees as “unsustainable” problems.
Ministers also made clear they will “continue” to see standstill arrangements as the “best means of providing stability and certainty to businesses” as UK-EU discussions take place.
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The EU Commission has said it will not renegotiate the Protocol but made clear it will try to find solutions within the framework of exciting treaties.
Brussels officials said they were “having constructive discussions with the UK.”
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