Ireland urges Boris Johnson to ‘very seriously consider’ option to resolve Brexit Protocol tension

Ireland’s Prime Minister, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, has told Sky News there is “a route” to resolving tensions over the Brexit Protocol following US President Joe Biden’s intervention.

He urged Boris Johnson to “very seriously consider” a veterinary-type agreement with the EU to eliminate “up to 80% of checks” on goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

President Biden cleared the way for what is known as a Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement by reassuring London it would not prevent a UK/US trade deal.

Mr Martin said: “I believe the US administration’s comments… are interesting as well in so far as they deal with a significant issue that would concern the British government, i.e. the capacity to do a trade deal with the United States whilst also having an SPS arrangement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

“In my view, there’s a legitimate issue there for the United Kingdom government, but in our view, an SPS agreement would deal with up to 80% of all of these issues and I think it’s a prize worth certainly exploring in the fullest manner possible.”

He warned it would be “very problematic” if the UK government acted unilaterally for a third time at the end of this month to extend the grace period for checks on chilled meats.

“It’s not about sausages per se, it really is about the fact that an agreement had been entered into not too long ago… and if there’s consistent, unilateral deviation from that agreement, that clearly undermines the broader relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is in nobody’s interest.”

The taoiseach said he did not see the US president’s intervention as a chastisement of the UK government but that Mr Biden was “absolutely committed to the Good Friday Agreement”.

“He doesn’t want discussions around the Protocol to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and he also wants to see full engagement and he believes there’s a way and a route, as I do, to getting these issues resolved.”

Mr Martin acknowledged “issues have arisen that are causing concern” and “the necessity to reduce tensions”, but stressed his government has “never seen the Protocol as a constitutional issue”.

“It doesn’t in any way interfere with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as defined and articulated in the Good Friday Agreement, we’re very clear from the Irish government perspective on that.

“But we do believe in seamless trade on the island of Ireland, it makes sense… and we believe in seamless trade, in so far as we possibly can, between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.”

Watch Micheál Martin’s interview in full on Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme from 8.30am today

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