It is more important than ever that Ireland and the EU “stand very firm” on the Northern Ireland protocol, according to the Minister for Finance.
Speaking to Newstalk yesterday the Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it was “significant” that the US President Joe Biden had intervened in the ongoing Brexit dispute between the UK and EU.
On the fringes of the G7 Summit in Cornwall this week, US officials issued their UK counterparts with a diplomatic rebuke over the ongoing impasse and warned that the dispute must not be allowed to endanger the peace process any further.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Ireland and the EU would continue to “stand very firm” on the Northern Ireland protocol.
“The disruptive event, the issue that has caused such difficulty in relation to the flows of trade in and out of Northern Ireland, is Brexit, not the protocol,” he said.
“The purpose of the protocol is to manage the consequences of Brexit that ensures that all of us will protect the Northern Ireland peace process and also that our membership of the single market here in Ireland is unaffected.
“Of course we recognise the democratic mandate and the right of the British people to decide what they want to do – of course we recognise that – but it has massive consequences for Ireland and the protocol is the best and safest way of managing them.”
He said Irish officials have had a ‘difficult few years to put it mildly’ dealing with the fallout from Brexit – but insisted an agreement would eventually be reached with the UK.
“That is why it is all the more important the Irish government and our allies in the EU stand very firm on the protocol – and we are,” he said.
“While acknowledging the ups and downs and the unpredictability of what has happened in the UK, I think we should also acknowledge the calmness and stability and depth of the support Ireland has received from the EU and the calm, stable and very persistent way in which this and the last Government since 2016 have followed our national interest.”
Minister Donohoe welcome the “significant” support of the US as negotiations continue.
“America has always been a vital stakeholder in Northern Ireland and clearly, the relationship between America and the UK is very important to both," he said.
“That is why the support of President Biden for our efforts … his support for the Northern Ireland peace process and for our country is so important.
“So, it is a significant moment and it is to be welcomed that both President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson did emerge from the meeting they had, I believe, yesterday, recommitting to finding a way through the current challenges – but the support of America is always very important in these matters.”
He said the best way to deal with the challenges was for the UK and EU to reach an agreement on agricultural products, which would put an end to up to 80% of the checks at Northern Irish ports.
“Within the protocol, there are structures and options that are there,” he said. “For example, we have already said there are arrangements in relation to the movement of animals, of agricultural produce that could be put in place in a way that would be consistent with the protocol and would also significantly reduce the checks that need to take place.
“So yes of course there is room for compromise and flexibility but it is inside the structure of the protocol and we certainly can’t renegotiate the protocol itself.”
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