Government wants ‘meat on the bone’ to push negotiations forward, Taoiseach says – The Irish Times

The government wants to see “meat on the bone” of negotiations to resolve a deadlock over the Northern Ireland Protocol between the European Union and Britain, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking after his first bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in north-west England on Thursday, Mr Martin said the “mood music was improving” between the UK’s negotiators and of the European Union.

Mr Martin said he and Mr Sunak had agreed there ‘is a good window of opportunity’ to resolve the impasse over the protocol, which governs the post-Brexit trade deal on the island of Ireland .

“The UK government, as well as the European Union, are now very committed to engaging and working on this issue and seeing if we can get a deal,” he said.

“We want to see meat on the bones, the background music is getting better, now we need to translate this into a resolution, a negotiated resolution between the European Union and the United Kingdom,” he said. .

Northern Ireland remains without an executive or devolved assembly because its formation is blocked by the DUP. The Unionist Party refuses to re-enter the power-sharing institutions due to its opposition to the current implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. There are no political representatives from Northern Ireland at the British Irish Council meeting as the North currently has no First or Deputy First Minister due to the ongoing crisis in Stormont.

Mr Martin said while he did not want to ‘underestimate’ the scale of the challenge, he believed there was ‘a very strong determination’ to find an agreement between the parties.

The postponement of elections in Northern Ireland created an opportunity for talks to take place between the EU and the UK government on the protocol, he said.

The meeting with Mr. Sunak also covered the war in Ukraine, as well as energy supply problems. The pair were meeting ahead of an Anglo-Irish Council summit to be held in north-west England.

The 38th summit meeting of the Anglo-Irish Council takes place on Thursday and Friday in Blackpool. The summit brings together the leaders of the British and Irish governments, as well as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Mr Sunak held separate meetings with Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford, before sitting down with Mr Martin on Thursday evening.

The British Prime Minister said the council meeting was “particularly important as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement” next April.

Downing St and Government Buildings both issued statements after the meeting underlining their determination to work for a negotiated solution to the protocol impasse.

Mr Sunak’s spokesman said he ‘underlined that the UK’s strong preference is for a negotiated solution with the EU’, but also that he ‘reiterated that any deal must resolve the set of problems caused by the protocol, but that he hoped for flexibility and pragmatism”.

Mr Martin’s statement said “the people and businesses of Northern Ireland have been very clear that they want agreed solutions to the problems of the Protocol and now is the time to deliver”.

However, there was as yet no sign of a fundamental change in the UK’s approach. Senior Irish officials say they remain skeptical that the UK is preparing to make the changes to its position that would pave the way for a protocol agreement, although they hope to advance technical talks between the EU and the UK in the coming weeks.

The Sinn Fein leader reiterated her party’s call for “clarity” from the UK government on next steps.

Mary Lou McDonald said the UK Prime Minister’s presence at the meeting was “welcome” but “we need more than a change of mood music”.

“We need clarity and certainty on how the British intend to use the next few weeks to ensure that we start 2023 with the Assembly and the Executive in place,” she said. declared.

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