UK urged by Taoiseach to consider impact of triggering Article 16

Micheál Martin says UK needs to reciprocate EU goodwill in order to achieve a deal

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the positive relationship between the Irish and UK governments had been of critical importance to the peace process in the North. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the positive relationship between the Irish and UK governments had been of critical importance to the peace process in the North. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The British government should give serious consideration to the impact that triggering Article 16 would have on the UK’s relationship with the European Union and Irish government as well as the damage it would cause to the peace process, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned.

Mr Martin said that he was not presuming that it was inevitable the UK government will trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol despite reports that senior EU and Government officials have held talks to plan a response in the event of the UK taking such action.

“I don’t think anything should be taken as inevitable in respect of the current talks on the protocol that are underway between the European Union and the United Kingdom government,” said Mr Martin at a flag raising ceremony in Cork for the new Munster Technological University.

Mr Martin said that the EU-UK relationship has always been more than just about the Northern Ireland protocol and anyone contemplating activating Article 16 should be aware of the wider repercussions it would have for Anglo-Ireland relations and the peace process in the North.

“This is much more than just about the protocol - obviously European Union- United Kingdom relations are very important over time and they should be a relationship that is built on sustained trust and they should be constructive and they should lead to the mutual benefit of citizens of the UK and citizens of the European Union.

‘Obligation’

“Also the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain is a fundamental one - the relationship of the two governments over 30 years has been central to the peace process, central to the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement and there’s an obligation on all parties to take those two fundamental sets of relationships into account before any action is taken.

“In my view, triggering Article 16 would represent a very serious issue in the context of both of those relationships so I would say and would hope that the talks that are still ongoing between the United Kingdom and the European Union will bear fruit.”

Mr Martin said Ireland had been helpful as a member of the European Union in sensitizing the European Commission to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland something that prompted EC vice-president, Maroš Šefcovic visiting Northern Ireland to meet people there and hear their concerns.

This had resulted in the EU coming forward with an extensive set of measures that took many people by surprise in terms of just how far the EU was willing to go to facilitate agreement and he believed that those proposals offered the basis for a positive conclusion to the current talks.

“I think people must take the bigger picture in mind as we negotiate our way through this,” said Mr Martin who rejected any description of the EU’s approach to the talks as one of “appeasement” and stressed again the need for the UK to reciprocate in terms of movement to reach an agreement.

‘Constructive engagement’

“I wouldn’t describe it (the EU approach) as ‘a politics of appeasement’, I would describe it as a very sensitive, constructive engagement and as being solution focused - the European Union has been solution focused - the European Union has also been conscious of the overall framework of peace and the importance of the Good Friday Agreement.

“And that’s the spirit in which they have entered into the engagement with the United Kingdom and hence the changes that they have brought forward and that’s why I think that should be met, that generosity of spirit should be reciprocated by the UK government.”

Mr Martin counselled against people creating a “self-fulfilling prophecy” with regard to talk of an impending trade war between the EU and the UK if Article 16 is triggered and he said such talk should be avoided, particularly as negotiations were still ongoing and agreement was possible.

“We’ve been here before, negotiations are still underway, there is still engagement between the UK and the European Union - as I said in the Dáil last week and I stand over my comments, I think it would be reckless and irresponsible to trigger Article 16,” he said.

“But I do think and I believe all parties need to take on board the fundamental importance of the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom and the relationship between the Irish government and the British government in terms of what has happened over the last 30 years working with the parties in Northern Ireland to transform the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and nothing should be done, in my view, unilaterally that would endanger that architecture.”