By Michelle Devane, PA
The Taoiseach has said he hopes Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will agree that negotiation is the best way out of the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse.
Micheál Martin also said Europe stands ready to be “flexible” in its negotiations with the UK Government on the protocol.
He made the remarks as he congratulated the new UK Prime Minister in the Dáil, saying he was looking forward to having the opportunity to engage with him.
Mr Martin and Mr Sunak were due to speak on Wednesday evening.
“I have said to the previous prime minister, Liz Truss, who to be fair did indicate to me a resolve to get these issues decided between Europe and Britain through negotiation,” Mr Martin said.
“I would hope that the new Prime Minister will equally believe in that idea that negotiation is the preferred option in terms of resolving the issues around the protocol and Europe stands ready.”
He added: “I’m in no doubt that Europe stands ready to be flexible in terms of all matters pertaining to the protocol and also in the context of the geopolitical difficulties that we’re facing across Europe.
“With the first war on the continent of Europe since World War Two, the need for like-minded countries, United Kingdom, European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan and so forth to be together in dealing with that issue, that really puts the issue of the protocol in context and the necessity to get it resolved.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she hopes the new Government in Westminster can bring about a “step change” in the relationships between Ireland and the UK and the EU and the UK.
“This can be a chance for a fresh start. The question is, will it be?” she said.
“We need to see relationships based on good faith and a genuine desire for real progress.”
She told the Dáil parliament that Sinn Féin had sought a meeting with Mr Sunak as soon as possible.
“The new Prime Minister must put a focus and energy into ensuring the implementation of the protocol, the ironing out of outstanding issues and getting the executive in the north back-up and running,” she said.
“The protocol is widely supported, it’s working, and of course it can work better, and we want to see that happen sooner rather than later. Time is of the essence.”
She added: “I have absolutely no doubt, Taoiseach, that Europe is ready and indeed has been ready and has shown remarkable flexibility in dealing with the issues of concern around the protocol.
“But just to reiterate, the protocol is widely supported, and it is working as you have attested to and have witnessed from your conversations with various sectors north of the border.”
The DUP has refused to engage with the devolved institutions in Belfast in the wake of May’s Assembly election as part of a campaign of opposition to the protocol.
It says it will not return to power-sharing until decisive action is taken to remove the protocol’s economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either by a negotiated compromise with the EU or through proposed domestic legislation – the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill – which would empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.
The European Commission has warned that such unilateral action at Westminster would be in breach of international law and could prompt retaliatory action.