Taoiseach warns of ‘serious prejudice’ if every Brexit issue is a ‘win-lose fight’

By on April 18, 2021 0

Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned of “very serious harm” if people continue to try to use Brexit to create points of contention or by presenting each issue “as a zero-sum win-lose fight”.

He also said that Northern Ireland’s protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement “is a fair conclusion to attempts to limit the potential destructiveness of Brexit on this island”, despite Unionists’ demands for its abandonment.

Mr. Martin said the protocol “is complex, but it is nowhere near as complex as it is presented.

“It’s not as complex as the thousands of remaining Brexit questions regarding trade and other contacts between Britain and the European Union. The rules and relationships developed over more than half a century do not come apart easily. “

“With good faith and cooperation, disruptions can be limited and we can resolve outstanding issues. We have seen significant progress in recent days. “

Mr Martin was speaking at the annual Fianna Fáil 1916 Rising commemoration at Arbor Hill in Dublin.

“It’s important to say that very serious damage can occur if we continue to see people trying to use Brexit as a problem to create points of contention. Or by presenting each issue as a zero-sum win-lose fight.

“When this approach is taken in UK-EU relations, the damage it causes is primarily economic. When it comes to distorting the arrangements for Northern Ireland, the damage can go much further.

“And it also prevents understanding two fundamental points about the post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

“First, it leaves constitutional questions solely in the hands of the people. It has absolutely no bearing on national identity or any other substantive issue. Second, and just as important, Northern Ireland now has the unique position of having free access to UK and EU markets. “

He said: “We have seen in recent weeks what can happen when sectarian tensions develop and are then encouraged by political events.

“Good faith and cooperation”

“The terrible scenes in the streets of Belfast have deep roots that we must question – and it is incumbent on all of us to play a constructive and moderating (role). With good faith and cooperation, disruptions can be limited, and we can resolve outstanding issues.

“We have seen significant progress in recent days. We have worked with the EU and UK to focus on how to alleviate differences and show how the arrangements for Northern Ireland can work. With openness and good faith, we can face this difficult time.

Describing the Belfast Accord, signed 23 years ago, as a “document that is both practical and visionary”, he said “it brings peace and demands reconciliation.

“He understood that the communities of this island knew too little about each other and that we had to build bridges between us, bridges of understanding and common goals.”

Referring to calls for a border poll on a united Ireland, he said the mechanics of the deal were specifically designed “so that we don’t have to see every interaction through the prism of one big one. constitutional decision ”.

Since the signing of the agreement, “we have wasted too much time. Too little has been done to make vital connections, create new opportunities, and show people how much we can achieve through cooperation. “

He said the government’s shared island initiative was just beginning but could have a huge impact.

Separately, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern said it was time for a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference as there is currently no political engagement between the two governments.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, he said there appears to be a reluctance on the UK side to engage with the Irish government.

Mr Ahern, one of the negotiators of the Belfast deal, said there had been no meetings since British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office and only one should be held.

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