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17 May, 2021 14:28

Irish PM Martin ‘doesn't believe London wants to tear up’ Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol, after meeting with UK PM Johnson

Irish PM Martin ‘doesn't believe London wants to tear up’ Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol, after meeting with UK PM Johnson

Ireland's Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he does not think that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to rip up a key part of the UK's Brexit deal with the EU, after the pair met to discuss border checks last week.

On Monday, Irish broadcaster RTE reported that Martin's government is concerned at the rhetoric surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement and a potential bid by Westminster to get rid of it completely.

Martin met Johnson at the UK PM's Chequers country estate on Friday to discuss the Protocol, which in recent months has contributed toward civil unrest in some of Northern Ireland's loyalist communities.

On top of this, the UK's lead minister on the Protocol, David Frost, argued in a Daily Mail article at the weekend that the Protocol may not be sustainable, while calling on the EU to help develop a new approach.

Asked about the media reports following the meeting and Frost's article, Martin told an online event on Monday hosted by Ireland's Institute of International and European Affairs that it was not his “immediate sense” London wanted to fully rewrite the protocol.

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“We were very clear – and are very clear – that this is an international agreement and commitments have been made and people have signed up to it and it needs to be worked,” Martin said in response to a reporter's question on the issue.

The Taoiseach also described Brexit as a “major step backwards,” but added it is “now a reality” and Ireland must do what it can to limit the scale of its “negative impact.”

On Monday, the BBC reported that the UK has asked the EU to give it more time to resolve border issues in Northern Ireland and has proposed phasing in a four-stage plan for checks on food products from October.

After the UK left the EU at the end of last year, the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force to make sure checks on fresh food and other products were being carried out at the Northern Irish border.

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The Protocol was also made to safeguard the Good Friday peace agreement, and ensure that no hard border was erected between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is still in the EU.

However, the strict checks led to food shortages in some Northern Irish supermarkets earlier this year.

They have also sparked tensions in some unionist areas, where critics have argued that the Protocol, with all its regulations on imports, has effectively placed a border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

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