Dutch PM says EU has shown ‘maximum flexibility’ on NI protocol

Martin says unilateralist position adopted by UK government ‘simply does not work’

The EU has shown “maximum flexibility” on the Northern Ireland protocol and it is crucial the UK returns to negotiations, the Dutch prime minster has said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin hosted the Mark Rutte at Farmleigh House on Monday, ahead of next weekend's EU Summit.

Mr Martin said the unilateralist position being adopted by the British government towards the protocol “simply does not work” and has never worked during negotiations on the Good Friday Agreement.

In a criticism of the stance adopted by the UK, he said: “Simple, when people do treaties this is about behaviour, how we behave towards each other.

"When we sign agreements there is an understanding that we adhere to them. Notwithstanding that, the EU has shown good will in working with the United Kingdom in the operational performance (of the protocol) to make it as efficient and effective as possible," he said.

“Unilateralism simply does not work,” continued Mr Martin. “It has never worked in the context of the Good Friday Agreement.”

He said the UK had declared an intention to do something that has not happened yet. He said that depending on what was done the EU response would be calibrated.

“We will take this step by step and do it in a sensible way and be mindful that there is always a way to resolve this,” he added.

Mr Rutte said he very much regretted the UK plan to introduce legislation that would override the protocol “especially in these times when cooperation and solidarity are crucial”.

In a joint press conference with Mr Martin, he said the arrangements were very important for preserving the achievement of the peace process.

“It is not unreasonable for us to expect the UK to comply with that agreement,” he said.

“The key thing now is to return to the negotiating table and find the resolution within the framework of the protocol.”

Mr Rutte said he got emotional when he thought of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

“(It is) all about about preserving the Good Friday Agreement and preventing a hard Border on the island of Ireland and safeguarding the integrity of the (single market),” he said.

“We are talking big stuff here. It is a big thing we are talking about. The EU has shown maximum flexibility.”

On the conflict in Ukraine Mr Rutte said he was confident that the sixth package of sanctions against Russia would be agreed at the Summit.

He said that the EU, as major consumers of Russian oil and gas, were “funding Putin’s horrific war. We need to put a stop to that as soon as we can,” he said.