Taoiseach Micheál Martin warns of ‘unraveling’ ties with Britain

In a major speech in Oxford today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has urged Britain’s next Prime Minister to change course on Northern Ireland as he warned of a “fraying” relationship.

Liz Truss is expected to be announced today as the new leader of the Conservative Party, replacing Boris Johnson at No. 10.

But she’s also the foreign secretary who pushed through a Northern Ireland Protocol bill that would scuttle Britain’s exit agreement with the EU and threaten the delicate balance in the North.

“I want to work openly and constructively with the new British Prime Minister,” Mr Martin said at a British Irish Association conference – notably attended by EU Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who has been conducting protocol talks for the 27 member states.

“I sincerely believe that the EU would respond positively to a serious and genuine signal from the new UK Prime Minister that its priority is to reach an agreed outcome on protocol implementation issues,” Martin said.

His comments amount to a call for a new approach, as Ms Truss claimed Britain was being forced to act unilaterally – and is envisaging legislation to overturn the pact, which passed the House of Commons and is now headed to the House of Lords.

“Unfortunately, acting unilaterally on Protocol and Legacy is at odds with the spirit of partnership needed to underpin the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Martin told his audience.

“It tests and frays that partnership between us.”

The Taoiseach said it believed the UK government’s current course of action “risks further instability in Northern Ireland and damage to key sectors of the economy”.

He called for “sustainable political partnerships” in support of the Good Friday Agreement with the UK government and Northern Ireland’s executive – which has yet to be formed since last April’s election.

Partnership is all the more necessary against the backdrop of a terrible war in Europe and changing political dynamics, Mr Martin said.

“I speak at a time of political change as we await the announcement on Monday of a new Conservative Party leader and UK Prime Minister. I wish them all the best in the challenging times ahead,” he said.

But he added sharply: “I am deeply concerned by UK Government legislation which would unilaterally reverse core elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

He said he was concerned not only with the wider partnership model between Ireland and the UK and the EU and the UK, but also with “the broader message it sends about a rules-based international order”, which is close to London’s message towards Russia and Ukraine with the declared intention to act alone in “internal” affairs.

Mr Martin said he was particularly concerned because the current Protocol Act “is not in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, nor is it what they want”.

There have been real difficulties with aspects of implementation but these need to be tackled together, the Taoiseach said, adding that the EU had listened very carefully to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland.

“It [the EU] has already made practical suggestions and I would like to take a moment to thank Vice-President Sefcovic for his very strong, dedicated and constructive leadership in this effort.”

Mr Martin said he believed there was a way towards an agreed approach to outstanding issues, but only “if we remain focused on tackling the real issues affecting the people of Northern Ireland”.

Pragmatic and operational solutions could be developed, but only an agreed outcome between the EU and the UK would provide a lasting solution, he warned.

If achieved, it would bring much-needed legal and economic certainty to businesses and the people of Northern Ireland, he added.

“The advantages are apparent. The risks of not doing this are significant.

“We have a duty as politicians to show that democratic, serious politics works,” he added.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/taoiseach-micheal-martin-warns-of-fraying-relationship-with-uk-41958639.html Taoiseach Micheál Martin warns of ‘unraveling’ ties with Britain

Fry Electronics Team

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