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Martin says he will have a 'professional' relationship with Boris Johnson if he becomes Taoiseach

Martin said the British-Irish relationship is ‘very, very important and has suffered as a result of Brexit’.

MICHEÁL MARTIN HAS said he plans to have a “professional” relationship with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he becomes Taoiseach after the next general election.

However, the Fianna Fáil leader has voiced his concerns about Johnson placing a 2021 deadline on the Brexit trade talks. 

Martin said the British-Irish relationship is “very, very important and has suffered as a result of Brexit. And I’m worried about that”. 

“The relationship [with Johnson] would be a professional one, [it] has to be a professional one based on the national interest,” he said.

Martin also stated that Johnson “has a capacity to change his position”, adding that that will be interesting to see in the future.

“As Mayor of London, he was quite a centrist, [and] had a centrist political platform. And in many ways, that was a significant electoral victory for him in London. He pivoted back to the centre,” said Martin, who raised concerns about how Johnson plans to play out the rest of the year with Brexit. 

The UK prime minister appears to have set himself up for combative trade talks in the new year after ruling out adhering to Brussels’ rules after 2020 when the transition period ends.

He altered his own Brexit Bill to make it unlawful for the government to extend the trade talks into 2021, giving negotiators an unprecedented 11 months to thrash out a free trade deal.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that Johnson has embarked on a “harder Brexit than we anticipated” and said he feared the UK wanted to “undercut” its European rivals on food, health and product safety after exit day.

Martin said such legislation setting a deadline for the trade deal is “unnecessary”.

“I think it’s dangerous. Because you’re back into your cliff edge at the end of the year, potentially, and most experts on trade believe it’s not possible to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement between the UK and Europe in the short time,” he said. 

Borris “contemplating a sort of a bare bones type of trade agreement” is less than satisfactory, according to Martin.

Having watched his performance at the G7, which Martin described as “interesting”, the Fianna Fáil leader noted that Johnson “didn’t pander to to Donald Trump”.

“He took the European position religiously on climate change, on free trade, multilateral organisational rules. That was very interesting, and probably suggests that he may want to get back on to steadier ground once the Brexit issue is dealt with,” he said. 

Having previously served as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Martin said that in the past Ireland had a “wonderful relationship” with those in the British government.

He said his “big worry” is that the “familial relationship” developed between Ireland and the UK as joint members of the European Union has been damaged.

He said civil servants on both sides used to know each other on a first name basis, as did the politicians.

Martin said he is worried such familiarity would now disappear, and suggested that a new political structure between Britain and Ireland is now needed. He said it could resemble the Nordic Council, where EU and non-EU members come together to discuss bilateral issues. 

He added that the British Irish Council doesn’t have the capacity to deal with a post-Brexit situation.

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