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Northern Ireland

'We all need to cool it': Taoiseach urges calm as EU and UK to discuss NI Protocol in London today

“We need to dial down the rhetoric on both sides,” Micheál Martin said in relation to the NI Protocol.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said both sides “need to dial down the rhetoric” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Martin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that there are bound to be teething issues since the UK left the EU and calm is needed.

A meeting in London is to be held later today between the European Commission’s vice president, Maroš Šefčovič, and UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove to discuss how to make the Protocol work more smoothly in practice.

Gove has asked that ‘grace periods’ for agri-foods and parcels being sent to Northern Ireland from Great Britain be extended until January 2023.

“We need to dial down the rhetoric on both sides,” Martin said in relation to the Protocol.

He added that people need to bear in mind that it is only about six weeks since the Brexit deal was agreed, suggesting that not enough time has been given to businesses to adjust.

“There are bound to be teething issues and teething problems, and certain people were not as prepared as they could have been in relation to the implications of Brexit,” he said.

“We’ve witnessed that ourselves in the Republic, in respect of many companies not being as prepared as we might have thought they would have been.”

Article 16

A row has ensued between the European Commission and AstraZeneca over the schedule of deliveries for EU member states in the first quarter of the year.

As part of the European Union’s response, it proposed triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has added fuel to a fiery row over post-Brexit checks and how they’re carried out in Northern Ireland. 

Next Tuesday, Šefčovič is to appear before an Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs to ask questions about how using Article 16 was first proposed.

Micheál Martin said today that the AstraZeneca dispute has reached “too high a pitch of a row” and that some member states need to “cool it” as well.

“I wasn’t too happy with the nature of the engagement over the last number of weeks,” Martin said.

“I’m engaged with the president of the Commission on the protocol to see if we can fine-tune it, and work on it.

“I would say in the context of the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland and we all need to cool it down because I think that the debate around Protocol got to too high a level, and tensions were rising unnecessarily.”

Asked about the deteriorating relationship between the Irish Government and unionists, Martin said unionists need to “reflect and pull back” on the matter.

“Stand back from the nitty gritty and the teething issues that are undoubtedly there and they are there,” he said.

“I’m hearing what unionism is saying, they are under pressure, but they need to, I believe, take a different tack and look at this in a more constructive way for the future of the people on the island.”

With reporting from the Press Association. 

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