Martin: The UK pushing back Brexit grace time ‘a problem’

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said it will be “very problematic” if the UK again extends unilaterally the grace period for Northern Ireland Protocol checks – adding that it is not a “constitutional” issue.

Sunday, 13th June 2021, 7:33 pm
Taoiseach Micheal Martin seen in relaxed form as he took an early morning stroll at Lough Erne Resort ahead of the British-Irish Council summit on Friday.  Picture: McGrade/Pacemaker Press
Taoiseach Micheal Martin seen in relaxed form as he took an early morning stroll at Lough Erne Resort ahead of the British-Irish Council summit on Friday. Picture: McGrade/Pacemaker Press

But speaking on the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News, Mr Martin also insisted a breakthrough between the EU and UK was possible “if there’s a will”.

His comments came after Boris Johnson said he will do whatever it takes to keep goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin told Sky News that the “channels do exist to get this resolved”.

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He added: “In particular, the Sefcovic/Frost process should be fully explored and optimised to get an agreement...

“I detect from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the British Government is anxious to get a resolution of this, so I think we should work at it.”

Mr Martin said an SPS agreement (on plant and animal health measures) could remove 80% of protocol checks.

Asked about the possibility of the UK extending the grace period for checks, Mr Martin said: “I think it will be very problematic, because it’s not about sausages per se.

“It really is about the fact that an agreement had been entered into, not too long ago, signed off by the British Government with the European Union.

“If there’s consistent, unilateral deviation from that agreement, that clearly undermines the broader relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is in nobody’s interest.

“And therefore that’s why the UK with the EU have to work very hard now in the coming weeks.

“I know the European Union are anxious to resolve this and want to resolve it but they need to see a similar reciprocity from the UK side.”

Asked if the protocol is undermining NI’s place within the UK, Mr Martin said: “We’ve never seen the Protocol as a constitutional issue, it doesn’t in any way interfere with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as defined and articulated in the Good Friday Agreement.

“We’re very clear from the Irish Government perspective on that, but we do believe in seamless trade on the island of Ireland, it makes sense.

“We believe in seamless trade insofar as we possibly can between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.”