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Foreign Affairs | Discussing the Northern Ireland Protocol with the British Government in light of Brexit

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he continues to bring further pressure on the British Government to fully honour the international agreement on Brexit; and if he continues to use the urgent need for the restoration of the Northern Assembly through all channels in this regard.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he continues to engage with the British Prime Minister and United Kingdom authorities in order to resolve difficulties caused by Brexit and alleviated by the Northern Ireland Protocol.


The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland was designed and agreed by the UK and EU to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions and to mitigate the inevitable disruption arising for the island of Ireland from Brexit.  

I spoke last week to Foreign Secretary Truss and speak on an ongoing basis with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis regarding both the Protocol and NI Executive formation, while the Taoiseach remains in contact with Prime Minister Johnson. I also maintain ongoing contact with the parties and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland, as well as with Commission Vice-President Šefcovic, EU counterparts, and a range of US partners.  

In contacts with the British Government, I have underlined the Irish Government’s deep disappointment at their decision to table legislation to unilaterally disapply parts of the Protocol. Such unilateral action would, if enacted, breach international law. It damages relationships within Northern Ireland, across our islands, between our governments, and between the UK and the EU.

I underlined that people in Northern Ireland do not support this legislation. We have seen that 52 MLAs have written to PM Johnson expressing “in the strongest possible terms” their objection to it. Northern Ireland business is clear that they need certainty and stability and that this requires a negotiated settlement.

Both the Irish Government and European Commission have engaged consistently with Northern Ireland stakeholders, including the Unionist community, to understand their concerns. In October, the Commission presented proposals directly addressing these concerns, but the UK has not seriously engaged with them. Last week, in addition to relaunching infringement proceedings following the UK’s actions on the Protocol, the Commission outlined further detail for these proposals.

Only joint solutions can provide long-term legal certainty and predictability to Northern Ireland. The UK needs to reciprocate the flexibility shown by the EU. I strongly urge the British Government to engage constructively with the EU.

It is also important that we continue to work to support all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, and the ongoing work of the peace process. The election on 5 May brought with it significant democratic change. It is, first and foremost, a matter for the parties now, and those representatives elected in good faith, to come together to establish an Executive to deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland on the basis of election result, and in a spirit of partnership, equality and mutual respect.

I hope, as we all do, that we will see those institutions up and running as soon as possible. I will continue to engage with the Secretary of State, other British Government counterparts, and the parties in Northern Ireland, in support of the functioning of all of the Good Friday Agreement institutions and a peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of Northern Ireland.


Foreign Affairs

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