Still much to do in Northern Ireland Brexit talks, Dublin cautions

  • World
  • Wednesday, 11 Jan 2023

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin arrives for a European Union leaders' summit in Brussels, Belgium December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union still have much work to do to settle on revised post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland after making important progress this week, Irish Foreign Minister Michéal Martin said on Tuesday.

Britain agreed on Monday a way forward on sharing live data with the EU on trade with Northern Ireland, a step towards resolving longstanding issues arising from the trading arrangements, the so-called Northern Ireland protocol.

Martin said it was right to take a tentative approach to the ongoing talks after a meeting in Brussels with the EU's negotiator on Brexit issues, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

"It remains difficult and I've no doubt there will be many, many difficulties yet and both sides have said there's still a lot of work to be done," Martin was quoted as saying by Irish national broadcaster RTE.

"People are very cautious, correctly, in my view, and that's why I think we do need to give space to the EU and UK negotiators, to allow them time and space to go through all of the issues in great detail and hopefully, hopefully then to arrive at a landing zone."

To preserve a 1998 peace deal between British-run Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland, ending decades of sectarian violence, and avoid a hard border between the two, Britain agreed as part of its departure from the EU to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the bloc's single market for goods.

Perceptions that the protocol erodes Northern Ireland's place in the UK have angered many of its unionists and triggered a near year-long boycott of the regional power-sharing government by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Martin, who spoke to the leaders of the main Northern Irish parties by phone on Monday, is due to meet Britain's minister for the region, Chris Heaton-Harris, in Belfast later this week as part of a flurry of diplomatic activity.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson sounded a wary note in a statement on Tuesday. "Whilst some may be focused on short-term fixes, that will not work for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"The restoration of devolved government is only made sustainable when the protocol is replaced by arrangements that restore Northern Ireland's constitutional and economic place within the United Kingdom."

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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