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Martin and Johnson spoke on the phone this evening. Julien Behal Photography
a quick chat

Taoiseach tells Johnson of the 'serious implications' if British government breaches Brexit deal

The pair spoke over the phone this evening.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Sep 2020

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has expressed his concern to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the UK government’s attempts to undermine the withdrawal agreement it agreed with the EU. 

In a phone call this evening, the Taoiseach set out “in forthright terms his concerns about the latest developments in London on Brexit, including the breach of an international treaty, the absence of bilateral engagement and the serious implications for Northern Ireland,” a spokesperson said.

Martin also stressed to Johnson that the British government should re-engage with EU negotiators urgently. 

It emerged earlier this week that the UK is planning to renege on elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that it agreed last year with the EU. 

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis admitted yesterday the move would breach international law, and the move has caused alarm in Ireland and Europe.

Today, the British government published the proposed legislation that would, if passed into law, unpick key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. 

A spokesperson for Johnson defended the bill this afternoon, saying the deal reached in 2019 was written “at pace” in “the most challenging” circumstances. During the successful election campaign for the Conservatives in late 2019, Johnson had described the deal as “oven ready”. 

In an interview with Sky News this evening, Martin said the move from the British had left Irish parliamentarians “aghast” and added he’d expressed his “deep disappointment” to Johnson during their phone call.

He also said there was a particular sense of anger over the comments from NI Secretary Brandon Lewis.

In the context of Northern Ireland, he said the move from the British government could “become very divisive” there at a time when “politics is settling down”.

Martin added that the move had “eroded trust” for negotiators and that “real political will” is needed to reach a deal between the EU and the UK.  At this time, he said he wasn’t optimistic a trade deal could be reached.

The Taoiseach had also expressed his concern about the move earlier today.

Martin said “meaningful negotiations can only proceed on the basis on mutual trust”.

“Unilateral actions which seek to change the operation of measures already agreed included in an International treaty and incorporated in domestic law do not build trust,” he said.

“Trust is fundamental in the conduct of any negotiations,” said the Taoiseach, conveying that he is “extremely concerned about the unilateral nature of the UK government’s actions”.

The government has also said a massive national effort will be needed to prepare for Brexit – regardless of whether or not there is a trade deal – with the transition period due to end at the beginning of 2021.

With reporting from Christina Finn

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