Taoiseach Micheál Martin has accused the British Government of being the main obstacle to resolving the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol because, unlike the Democratic Unionist Party, it has not proposed a possible solution.
In a blunt assessment of the political impasse that has paralyzed the Northern Assembly, Martin said he felt the European Union no longer trusted Boris Johnson’s government to work with it to resolve difficulties over the protocol.
The Taoiseach cited the role played by the UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, in trying to “torpedo” a proposed resolution last year.
His comments prompted a quick response from Frost, who suggested on Twitter that the British government’s position was being “ignored or misrepresented”.
Speaking to reporters in Cork on Saturday, Martin said: “The fundamental challenge with the Northern Ireland protocol may not be trade unionism. I think it falls to the British government and the British government must figure out for itself what it really wants.
“I think that trade unionism has presented us with a case and we have discussed it over time with the European Union. The European Union has met with the Unionist community and has met with business and industry in Northern Ireland and has put forward proposals
“But the European Union never really got a landing zone from the British government in relation to the protocol. It is not very clear what will suffice for the British government. We have an idea of what would work with trade unionism, but we don’t have that idea with the British government.”
Martin cited the decision last year by Frost, then acting as Brexit minister for the British government, to raise the issue with the European Court of Justice on the eve of the publication of a compromise proposal by the vice-president of the Commission. European, Maros Sefcovic.
“Unionism raised issues about the operation of the protocol that we worked with our colleagues in the European Union to try to resolve and, if you recall, just before Maros Sefcovic outlined his proposals, Lord Frost tried to torpedo them by raising the issue of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.
“That was a deliberate attempt, it seems to me, to undermine what Maros Sefcovic was doing and we need less than that from the British government to be frank and the problem for Europe is that Europe is not sure and not confident now as to what It would solve the protocol issue.”
Frost tweeted a link to The Irish Times report on Martin’s comments on Saturday, with the comment: “Normally I wouldn’t want to use Twitter to respond to @MichealMartinTD the Taoiseach, but as he accuses me personally of screwing up the talks last year I feel like I have to answer.
“The suggestion that the UK has not established a ‘landing zone’ is simply wrong. Our July 2021 command document and the legal text that followed it was a very clear landing zone, spelled out in great detail.
“That July document was also very clear that the role of the Court of Justice had to be eliminated. So it is simply wrong to say that I first brought it up in October in my Lisbon speech or that the aim was to wreck the talks process.
“If the Protocol issue is to be resolved, Ireland and the EU must commit to what we have actually said. It has always been clear to me that a negotiated way forward would be best. But if HMG’s positions are ignored or misrepresented, it is not surprising that unilateral action is on the table.”
Speaking at the official opening of Cork ARC Cancer Support’s new home at Sarsfield House in Wilton, Martin said he had spoken to Johnson earlier this week and made it clear that any unilateral action by the UK government would be a error.
“I made it clear that any unilateral move to undermine the protocol would have a destabilizing impact on Northern Ireland and, in my view, importantly, the British government needs to work professionally with the European Union in terms of resolving any issues over the protocol. .”
The British prime minister has said that the protocol is becoming a political problem and that it is not working in the context of Northern Ireland. He has demanded changes despite agreeing to it in 2019 and the British government has warned it will act unilaterally to change the protocol if a deal cannot be reached with the EU.
Mr Martin said: “The UK government must put the stability of the political situation in Northern Ireland first, these problems can be solved, and I know trade unionism is ready to solve them too.”
Mr. Martin said he believed the solution to the current standoff over the DUP’s refusal to enter the executive unless the protocol issue is resolved was to run the assembly in parallel with the protocol discussions.
“The discussions on the protocol must be parallel with the restoration of the executive power and the restoration of the assembly because democracy means that all parties have a duty to fulfill the mandate given to them by the people and that is to establish the assembly and created the executive,” Martin said.
“So the executive and the assembly can make a strong contribution to resolving the issues related to the protocol, but I think the British government needs to think hard about their strategy and their approach because, in my view, their one-sided approach is not helpful at all.”
Earlier, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she intended to tell Johnson on Monday morning that his tactics in relation to the Brexit protocol are “disgraceful and disgraceful”.
Ms McDonald said the British government is colluding with the DUP to thwart the will of the electorate expressed in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, where Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party.
Speaking after a Sinn Féin ard comhairle meeting in Dublin, he urged the international community to “call out” the British government for its lack of good faith in relation to the protocol.
McDonald accused Johnson of using the North as a “pawn in a larger game with the European Union and this is clearly a shameful tactic and approach.”
“Let’s be clear: the protocol is not going anywhere. The protocol is a necessary consequence of the Brexit campaigned for by the Tory Party and the DUP. We will not be collateral damage in the Brexit negotiations,” he said.
He anticipated that both the US government and the EU will say “loud and clear” to the British government that its attempts to change the protocol will not be accepted.
Sinn Féin Assembly Leader Michelle O’Neill said Sinn Féin turned up as it promised to do for the assembly.
“People voted for politics to work, for people to work together. The DUP is punishing the public for their own Brexit mess. The Tories are making it easy for them,” he added.
“When Boris Johnson comes to Belfast on Monday, we will make it very clear to him that they are punishing the public and that is not acceptable.
“Boris Johnson has no mandate on the island of Ireland but he is facilitating this DUP madness. I want the opportunity to be in the Prime Minister’s office.”
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