Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Brexit: Boris Johnson tells Irish premier ‘significant changes’ needed to protocol

Taoiseach says there is ‘growing view’ in Northern Ireland that protocol is working

Adam Forrest
Saturday 12 March 2022 23:40 GMT
Related video: Tory MP Desmond Swayne says Brexit paperwork is ‘monstrous’

Boris Johnson has told the Irish premier that “significant changes” are still needed to the protocol – after the taoiseach said there is a growing view in Northern Ireland that the Brexit deal is working.

Micheal Martin said “everyone he has met” in Northern Ireland wants continued access to the EU single market as he met Mr Johnson in London for talks.

The taoiseach’s comments come after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would not resume the power-sharing arrangement until the UK-EU protocol row is resolved.

Mr Martin suggested the hotly contested issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol would not be resolved by the time of the province’s May elections – saying London and Brussels would strike a deal “in the fullness of time”.

Speaking to reporters ahead of talks with the prime minister in London, Mr Martin said business leaders north of the border thought the Northern Irish economy was benefiting from current arrangements.

“What’s very interesting from our perspective, though, is that what’s increasing and growing is a view within Northern Ireland, particularly in Northern Ireland business and industry, that the protocol is working in terms of inward investment into Northern Ireland, and in terms of access to the EU single market,” he said.

Mr Martin told reporters: “So anybody I’ve met in Northern Ireland all want to continue access to the EU single market. It’s a good basic principle to start off on.”

However, Mr Johnson insisted that “significant changes” were still needed to the agreement, as foreign secretary Liz Truss continues to lead talks on easing border checks with her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister reiterated the need to make significant changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland and safeguard the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.

“He said that while greater ambition and flexibility was needed from the EU in the negotiations, it was his hope that the same spirit of co-operation that had characterised the UK-EU relationship in respect of Ukraine could also be applied to resolving the issues with the protocol.”

The Irish leader – who attended the England v Ireland rugby match at Twickenham on Saturday with Mr Johnson – defended his decision not to consult the UK before deciding to waive visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.

“It was never on that we would be acting outside of the European Union approach to this,” he said. “I think the UK would have been well aware of the direction of travel of the European Union in respect of this measure.”

Asked if he would encourage Mr Johnson to take in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine, the taoiseach said: “Well to be fair I’m not here to tell Boris Johnson what to do,” before adding: “I have to acknowledge the leadership of the UK government in terms of the sanctions it has imposed on Russia.”

The meeting in London follows the latest remarks by the DUPs leader, who was applauded at Crossgar Orange Hall on Friday night for saying his party would not re-enter the Stormont Executive until Mr Johnson’s government acts to “protect Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom”.

Paul Givan resigned as first minister earlier this year as part of the DUP’s action against the protocol in a move which also removed Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill from the joint office.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in