Taoiseach says Northern Ireland protocol bill ‘regrettable and unacceptable’

Martin claims there is ‘an unacceptable trend towards unilateralism’ within current British government

The passing of legislation allowing Britain to scrap some of the Northern Ireland protocol through the second stage of the UK parliament on Monday is “regrettable and unacceptable”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin also said there is “an unacceptable trend towards unilateralism” within the current British government.

Despite some fierce criticism MPs voted 295 to 221 in favour of the Northern Ireland protocol bill, which would unilaterally overturn part of Britain’s divorce deal from the EU agreed in 2020. The bill now proceeds to line-by-line scrutiny.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has described the changes he is seeking as “relatively trivial”, and ministers insist the move does not break international law, but the EU has started legal proceedings against Britain over its plans.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the legislation was in breach of international law, and could potentially have “devastating consequences” for Ireland’s economy and the Belfast Agreement.

“What is the Government’s response to last night’s vote and what steps do you propose to take in response to this Tory belligerence,” Ms McDonald asked the Taoiseach.

Mr Martin said he found the legislation and decision by the UK government to be “regrettable and unacceptable”.

“This is a trend within the current British government towards aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, be it the protocol, be it legacy issues or be it now, more recently, its action on human rights,” he said. “There is an unacceptable trend towards unilateralism. The steps we intend to take is to work absolutely in concert with our European partners.”

Mr Martin said he had spoken about the issue to the president and vice-president of the European Commission, and the president of the European Council.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times