‘It’s overstated!’ Martin downplays Brexit woes of abundance of checks in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Protocol: Micheál Martin on border checks

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Speaking to the BBC’s Newscast podcast with the corporation’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Martin said there was not an “abundance” of checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland as he desperately tried to defend the European Union’s efforts to keep the controversial Protocol in place amid fears the UK could trigger Article 16 and bring an end to the post-Brexit chaos.

Ms Kuenssberg questioned Mr Martin on claims made by the EU who say they would cut “80 percent of checks” on goods at the border.

But she stressed the EU in fact mean 80 percent of checks “if the Protocol was being fully implemented.”

Mr Martin replied: “The European Union is there to negotiate, to engage and to minimise the issues.”

The Irish premier noted how European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič is “very keen to get this resolved” as he cast off doubts over the EU’s negotiating position over the Protocol.

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Mr Martin noted this by pointing to a conversation he had with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel a year ago, where Ms Merkel said the last thing the EU want is “an abundance of checks” on goods entering Northern Ireland.

He added how the German Chancellor at the time insisted the bloc wanted to “minimise checks” in Northern Ireland.

But Ms Kuenssberg lashed back accusing the Taoiseach that an abundance of checks is exactly what is currently happening in Northern Ireland, despite him claiming the opposite.

But a clearly frustrated Taoiseach hit back, replying: ”No it is not!”

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Mr Martin then claimed how the frequency of onerous checks on goods entering Northern Ireland “is overstated to some degree” as he desperately tried to dampen post-Brexit woes in the region.

He insisted “there is not an abundance of checks” as he attempted to hit home his point further.

The Taoiseach added how the current souring of relations “can get resolved” with what he suggested would be with “goodwill on all sides”.

Speaking on Friday following a meeting with European Commission Mr Sefcovic in Brussels, Chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said the bloc are unwilling to relinquish the oversight of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

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While he said some progress had been made and there was “potential to generate some momentum” in talks, he warned unless the EU compromised in discussions, triggering Article 16, the legal mechanism to suspend the treaty, may still be necessary in order to protect the integrity of the UK.

Lord Frost also “welcomed” Mr Šefčovič’s acknowledgement in a speech on Friday that the Protocol had led to “unintended consequences in Northern Ireland”.

Setting out the EU’s plans, Mr Šefčovič said he wanted to create an “express line” for goods set to remain in Northern Ireland with little likelihood of entering the EU via the Republic of Ireland.

For months the UK has warned the Protocol is having a damaging impact on the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

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