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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 11°C
PA An anti-Northern Ireland Protocol sign close to Larne Port
# Northern Ireland Protocol
Irish MEPs 'positive' about resolving Northern Ireland Protocol issues
The UK had previously signalled it would act unilaterally on the Protocol.

Tadgh McNally reports from the European Parliament.

IRISH MEPS HAVE said that the UK Government’s attitude on the Northern Ireland Protocol has shifted in recent weeks, with more positive sounds now coming from Westminster.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels this afternoon, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly said that at a meeting between MEPs and UK MPs earlier this week, the Northern Ireland Protocol was the main topic of discussion.

Kelly said that the new British Government appeared willing to resolve the ongoing stalemate around the Protocol.

“I think the fact that elections in Northern Ireland are postponed would tie into the vibes that I got, that this brinkmanship, hopefully, is coming to an end and that the British Government are now seeing sense and they want to come to an arrangement that will solve, hopefully, the protocol and the impasse in Northern Ireland and get the assembly back up and running,” Kelly said.

It comes as technical discussions between the UK and EU are continuing, with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney saying that a deal is doable before the end of the year.

“Now there’s a sense that something positive is hopefully happening,” Kelly added.

Colm Markey, a Fine Gael MEP for Midlands-North-West, said that there was now “willingness” to move the process on.

“The mood certainly in the room this week was much, much stronger in terms of a willingness to try and move things on,” Markey said.

Despite the potential for a deal, the UK had previously signalled that it would act on the Protocol unilaterally, with legislation currently before the House of Lords.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would override large swathes of the Protocol, has been criticized by the EU and Ireland.

However, the bill has been praised by the DUP, who are currently refusing to return to power sharing at Stormont due to the Protocol.

Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews said that if the bill were to become law, it would force the EU to escalate.

“If the Northern Ireland protocol bill becomes law you’re into a completely different space and it’d be almost impossible for the EU not to escalate to either dispute resolution or specific tariffs against targeted UK goods, so you’re into trade war territory.”

However, Andrews says that the UK currently faces other significant issues and they “can’t afford” further strain on the country’s economy. 

It follows on from a mini-budget, which lead to a record fall in the pound and the eventual resignation of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister.

“That is the reality of it. The new Government is aware of that reality and can ill afford any new headwinds in additions to the ones they already face,” Andrews added.

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