Ireland pins blame on UK! Brexit row erupts as Boris ordered to show ‘flexibility’ like EU
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Micheal Martin has heaped praise on the EU for its handling of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol and called on Boris Johnson to show “similar flexibility”. The UK and EU have been at loggerheads over the implementation of the Protocol, which was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, but has effectively placed a new trade barrier down the Irish Sea.
Mr Martin, 61, made the intervention following a meeting with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in Dublin.
He said: “I acknowledge that the concerns of the unionist community are sincere, but I indicated as well that the mechanisms are there in the UK-EU trade agreement to resolve these issues and the issues around the Protocol.
“Our sense has been that the EU Commission has been flexible and ready to respond to the situation.
“We do need to see similar flexibility from the UK Government side.”
Just 24 hours earlier, the Irish chief also received further reassurances over the Protocol from French President Emmanuel Macron.
President Macron stressed the EU continue to support Ireland and honour agreements signed in the Brexit deal.
The 43-year-old travelled to Ireland as part of an election pledge to visit all 27 EU member states.
President Macron said: “It is an existential issue for the solidarity and the unity of the European Union.
“So we will make sure that the agreements that are signed after very lengthy negotiations will be complied with when it comes to fisheries, or some well-known protocols.”
Following talks with Mr Martin, he added: “For me, the European Union remains, first and foremost of political project, and we will stand by you.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol ties Belfast to the EU regulatory framework and has disrupted trade with the rest of Great Britain.
British firms have been subject to additional red-tape when sending goods via Northern Ireland – rules UK negotiators argue are excessive.
The new arrangements include rigorous checks on chilled meats, which threatened to ignite a so-called sausage-war earlier this year.
A ceasefire between the two sides was agreed at the end of June and a three-month grace period on checks was finalised until the end of September.
Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic have been tasked with finding a solution.
Last month, Lord Frost said the UK and EU “cannot go on as we are” with the current Northern Ireland Protocol arrangements.
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Speaking in the House of Lords, the Brexit chief called for “significant changes”.
The UK has put forward a number of proposals, such as a “standstill period” where existing grace periods are maintained, as well as a freeze on existing legal actions and processes.
Mr Sefcovic has said the EU was open to “creative solutions” but insisted the bloc would not renegotiate the entire Protocol.
The bloc attempted to break the standstill by making the UK align with its animal health and safety rules – EU officials argue this could eliminate around 80 percent of customs checks.
UK negotiators have rejected this plan amid fears it could block the ability for Britain to negotiate trade deals with other nations around the world.
Brexit talks between Lord Frost and Mr Sefcovic are set to continue in the coming weeks following the summer recess.
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