Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
PA Keir Starmer.

British Labour leader Keir Starmer to meet political leaders in Dublin amid NI Protocol row

Starmer will meet Taoiseach Micheál Martin and President Michael D Higgins during the visit.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 8th 2022, 10:15 PM

BRITISH LABOUR LEADER Keir Starmer has arrived in Dublin ahead of his meetings with political leaders tomorrow, where ongoing tensions between the EU and UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol are expected to dominate discussions. 

Starmer will hold talks with Taoiseach Micheál Martin tomorrow, and will also meet with President Michael D Higgins at 11:30am in Áras an Uachtaráin.

Meetings have also been scheduled with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, as well as with Labour leader Ivana Bacik.

The trip is his first visit to Ireland as Labour leader.

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce this evening hosted Starmer for an event with representatives from businesses across the island of Ireland.

The ‘Business Leader Engagement with Keir Starmer’ event saw the British Labour leader discuss business ties between the UK and Ireland and the need for the UK and EU to reach an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Chamber briefed the UK’s Leader of the Opposition on the impact of trade disruptions on a variety of industries ranging from agri-food and ICT to the higher education and research.

“We’re delighted to welcome the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer to Dublin, where he spent an evening with Irish businesses leaders, representing companies that employ over 120,000 people in the UK,” Director-General of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce John McGrane said this evening.

He said Starmer’s visit is “extremely timely and important” given the need for all sides to work together and find “pragmatic solutions” to the Protocol, adding that it’s “vital” that politics does not get in the way.

“With businesses facing rapidly rising prices and an uncertain economic outlook, businesses need above all to have clarity and certainty over the trading arrangements between these islands,” McGrane said.

“In gaining agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol, firms on both sides of the Irish Sea can get on with trade and realise the potential of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“The Chamber remains committed to this dialogue and we will continue to work with UK, Irish and EU leaders from across the political spectrum.”

Time for ‘practical solutions’

Starmer said the Chamber plays a vital role in “maintaining focus on the value of two-way trade between the United Kingdom and Ireland, for business, for our governments, and our communities”.

“Business always finds a way forward with determination and optimism, working together in the spirit of finding collective solutions. You do it because people need you to. Politicians need to find a similar way forward, to secure certainty and clarity for British and Irish trade,” he said.

Now is not a time for games, but for practical solutions, based on trust. And because this is how business operates, it is vital that you are round the table, and your voice is heard. This is why it’s a pleasure to meet with you all, and why this evening has been so valuable.

Starmer will head to Belfast on Friday to meet political leaders in Stormont, where he is expected to call for compromise and negotiation to end the political deadlock over the return of the power-sharing Executive.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said the UK intends to legislate to override parts of the deal on Northern Ireland, with the details expected to be announced in the coming week.

Opposition to that deal has seen the DUP block efforts to restore power-sharing in the region.

In an address to the European Parliament today, the Taoiseach said Britain’s plans to act unilaterally over the Northern Ireland Protocol would be “deeply damaging” and mark a “historic low point”.

Martin said the UK Government’s proposed legislation to override key parts of the Brexit deal would be “to the benefit of absolutely no-one”.

He also said during his visit to Strasbourg that he disagrees with the UK Government’s handling of the protocol and accused it of failing to engage with the EU.

“I have said many times that there are solutions to practical problems under the protocol if there is a political will to find them. But that requires partnership. It requires the UK Government to engage with good faith, seriousness, and commitment,” he said.

Unilateral action to set aside a solemn agreement would be deeply damaging. It would mark a historic low point, signalling a disregard for essential principles of laws which are the foundation of international relations, and it would, quite literally, be to the benefit of absolutely no-one.

“I disagree with the approach that the United Kingdom Government has taken in respect of dealing with the protocol and its failure really to engage and to engage in a substantive way with the European Union, and particularly the Commission and Maros Sefcovic,” he added.

Boris Johnson

Following his remarks, Boris Johnson denied the UK Government has failed to consult one of its senior legal advisers over plans to unilaterally scrap elements of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The British Prime Minister rejected the claim that First Treasury Counsel James Eadie, the Government’s independent barrister on major legal issues, had not been asked to give a view on the contentious Bill due to be tabled at Westminster.

Sky News reported that Eadie has not been consulted on whether the legislation would breach international law.

SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood challenged Johnson on the report during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

“I can tell him that the reports that he has seen this morning are not correct,” replied Johnson.

“And what I can also tell him is that the most important commitment that I think everybody in this House has made is to the balance and symmetry of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“That is our highest legal international priority and that is what we must deliver.”

Downing Street said a “number of legal experts” had been involved in the legislation, which has yet to be finalised.

With reporting from the Press Association.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel