Northern Ireland

Taoiseach raises 'serious concerns' with Boris Johnson over British government's proposals on legacy issues

The Taoiseach said the UK Government’s statements on the NI Protocol, to be made at Westminster tomorrow, would be carefully considered.

THE TAOISEACH AND UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by telephone this afternoon, where they discussed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and exchanged views on the current Covid-19 situation.

Micheál Martin said that the UK Government’s statements on the Protocol, to be made at Westminster tomorrow, would be carefully considered and he stressed the EU-UK framework for issues related to the Protocol.

The Taoiseach also raised legacy issues, including serious concerns at the British Government’s proposals.

He emphasised that there can be no pre-determined outcome to the consultation process currently underway.

Martin and Johnson agreed to stay in touch with a statement adding that they looked forward to an opportunity to meet in person in the future.

In a read out from Downing Street about the same conversation, a statement said Johnson told Martin that “pragmatism” is needed to mend the issues being caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, as the UK prepares to announce its own proposed solution.

The statement went on to say that during the phone call with the Taoiseach, Johnson called for the European Union to have an open mind to possible solutions required to address the “serious challenges” to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The men had been due to meet in person in the UK, until Johnson was told to self-isolate after coming into close contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for coronavirus at the weekend.

The Protocol was negotiated as part of Britain’s divorce from Brussels to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

But the introduction of checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea has angered Unionists, arguing the Brexit terms have weakened Northern Ireland’s links with the rest of the UK.

In the readout of conversation, a Downing Street spokeswoman said:

“The Prime Minister emphasised that the way the Protocol is currently operating is causing significant disruption for the people in Northern Ireland.

“He made clear the UK Government’s commitment to protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.

“He said the EU must show pragmatism and solutions needed to be found to address the serious challenges that have arisen with the Protocol.

“The Prime Minister said that the UK Government would outline its approach on the Northern Ireland Protocol to Parliament tomorrow.”

During their call, the leaders also discussed the UK’s proposals on addressing the Troubles legacy in Northern Ireland, which the Taoiseach has called “wrong”.

Last week it was announced that plans are afoot to create a statute of limitations ending all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998.

The legislation would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries, and would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

The No 10 spokeswoman added: “The Prime Minister stressed that the current focus on criminal justice is not working for anyone and looked forward to further engagement with the Irish Government, parties in Northern Ireland and others on the UK’s proposals.”

With reporting by Press Association

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