Taoiseach says the UK and EU need to ‘deal with the matter’ and resolve the row over the NI protocol

The Tawisic government has urged the United Kingdom and the European Union to resolve the dispute over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.

Brexit Secretary David Frost will hold further talks with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic tomorrow, with the UK continuing to warn that it may unilaterally suspend parts of the NI deal unless significant changes are made.

But this evening, Michel Martin said he was encouraged that progress was being made and the «musical mood» had changed.

In an interview with the BBC, Martin warned the UK against taking the step of activating Article 16 of the protocol, a step that would suspend parts of the arrangements.

Martin said the European Commission had introduced a «comprehensive package of measures» to address concerns raised about the protocol, adding that some EU members believe Sefkovic has gone «too far» in his concessions to reduce checks.

He said he believed serious talks were taking place between the UK and the EU «and where there is a will, there is a way, and I think both sides just need to solve the problem».

Negotiations on a Brexit deal stretched from the European Union a year ago to December 24, and Martin said «don’t leave it on Christmas Eve this year».

Asked if he could trust British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Taoiseach said: «I have a good relationship with Boris Johnson on a personal level.»

Today, Frost told peers that the option to use Article 16 remained on the table despite speculation that a deal was within reach.

«My view is that unilateralism never works» and using Article 16 would have a «very negative» effect, Martin said.

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In the UK parliament, Frost said Brussels should not interpret his «reasonable tone» in the talks to mean any softening of the UK’s position.

He told the House of Lords: «Whatever the offending messages the EU thinks they have heard or read, our position has not changed.

We would prefer a negotiated agreement if we can. This is the best way forward for a stable and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But I want to be clear, I am not recommending any outcome from the negotiations which I do not believe will safeguard the political, economic or social stability of Northern Ireland.

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«In circumstances like this, we obviously need to provide the necessary safeguards using Article 16 and these safeguards are very much on the table and are a legitimate provision in the protocol.»

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