Irish PM warns UK not to be reckless on N.Irish protocol

·2-min read
COP26 in Glasgow

DUBLIN (Reuters) -Ireland's prime minister on Wednesday warned Britain of far-reaching implications for its relations with the European Union if it takes the "reckless" step of seeking to suspend parts of the Northern Irish protocol in its Brexit divorce deal.

Difficulties in sending some goods to British-run Northern Ireland have prompted London to repeatedly call for widespread changes to the protocol and threaten to trigger safeguard measures in the deal if the EU fails to agree to an overhaul.

Micheal Martin, speaking after meetings with EU and U.S. leaders at the COP26 Summit, described British actions in recent weeks as sabre-rattling and described current British/EU relations as "very challenging and very serious."

"It would be unwise, and it will be reckless to invoke Article 16 (safeguard measures) as a response to the proposals from the European Commission," Martin told parliament.

"I think if such an act was to be taken by the British government. I think it would have far reaching implications for the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union."

The European Commission last month offered Britain a package of measures it said could halve customs paperwork, cut checks on meat, dairy and other British food products by 80% and ensure the undisturbed flow of medicines.

London has said the proposals do not go far enough.

Martin, who said the conditions exist for agreement between the two sides, said U.S. President Joe Biden asked for a brief conversation at the climate summit. Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has shown a keen interest in the protocol.

"He reiterated to me in the strongest possible terms, how the Good Friday Agreement matters very deeply to his administration as to President Biden himself and he said to me that he had made this unequivocally clear to the British government," Martin said, referring to a 1998 peace deal.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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