Irish PM boosts hopes of breakthrough in UK-EU Brexit talks

Irish PM boosts hopes of breakthrough in UK-EU Brexit talks

Hopes of a breakthrough in Northern Ireland standoff as Irish PM praises better ‘mood music’ ahead of talks between Lord Frost and EU counterpart TODAY

  • Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said there is better ‘mood music’ in Brexit talks
  • He said talks on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol are ‘good and positive’
  • Came as Lord Frost meets with EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in Brussels today 

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin today boosted hopes of a Brexit breakthrough on the Northern Ireland border row as he said the ‘mood music’ has changed in talks between the UK and the EU. 

Mr Martin said he believes the negotiations on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol are now in a more constructive place and ‘what is happening is good and positive’. 

However, he insisted there is still a ‘long way to go’ to resolve the remaining issues as he cautioned the UK against unilaterally suspending border checks if Brussels fails to budge. 

The UK has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol which would see the existing arrangements torn up – but Mr Martin warned that ‘unilateralism never works’.

His intervention came as Brexit Minister Lord Frost meets with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic for face-to-face talks in Brussels today.  

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin today boosted hopes of a Brexit breakthrough on the Northern Ireland border row as he said the ‘mood music’ has changed in talks between the UK and the EU

Brexit Minister Lord Frost is meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic for face-to-face talks in Brussels today

The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the original Brexit deal, requires checks on goods to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic. 

But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.   

The UK and the EU have been holding talks for months on how to improve the operation of the protocol but a breakthrough remains elusive.    

The Government has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to unilaterally suspend the border arrangements if the EU refuses to give ground.

Such a move would almost certainly trigger a legal challenge from Brussels and could spark a potential trade war. 

Mr Martin warned at the start of November that triggering Article 16 would be ‘unwise’ and ‘reckless’. 

But he told the BBC the atmosphere around the talks has now changed and he believes a deal can be achieved. 

He said: ‘That comment was made some weeks ago when the indications were that a unilateral move was going to be made to just trigger it without really serious engagement on the issues.

‘I now believe that what is happening is good and positive in terms of the engagement, it is the very type of thing I want to see that I hadn’t been seeing.’

He added: ‘I am glad to say that the mood music has changed. Now, there is still a long way to go and people have to see the substance and the detail of the issues being reconciled but I believe they can.’

Mr Martin said he has been ‘very encouraged by what has transpired this week’ between Lord Frost and Mr Sefcovic. 

He warned against triggering Article 16 and said ‘my own view is unilateralism never works’ as he said suspending border checks would put the UK-EU relationship into a ‘period of stress’.  

‘I don’t want to be entering into a doomsday scenario here or making comments that might be seen as threatening in terms of what could happen,’ he said. 

The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the original Brexit deal, requires checks on goods to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic

‘But I think the implications are clear to all of us in the sense that this was a negotiated agreement over a year ago and that there is a number of relationships here.

‘There is the European Union-UK relationship. Do we really want that to go into a period of stress?’

His comments came after Lord Frost said yesterday that the threat to unilaterally tear up the border rules is still ‘very much on the table’.   

He also told the EU not to mistake his ‘reasonable tone’ during talks for ‘any softening in the substantive position’. 

Boris Johnson said earlier this week that it would be ‘perfectly legitimate’ for the UK to trigger Article 16 if improvements cannot be agreed with the EU. 

Brussels has warned such a move would have ‘serious consequences’ for the region and the bloc’s relationship with the UK. 

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