The European Union has proved how “open and willing” it is to bring a resolution to post-Brexit trade issues in Northern Ireland, Irish premier Micheal Martin has said.
The European Commission has published measures to slash 80% of regulatory checks and dramatically cut customs processes on the movement of goods between Britain and the island of Ireland.
Mr Martin paid tribute to European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic for how he and the European Commission have handled post-Brexit issues.
“It’s been a sincere, hard-working and very sensitive and committed approach,” the Taoiseach added.
“Maros Sefcovic has really consulted with people all around. His engagement with the Irish Government to get a sense of things, he went north and spoke to people on the ground in Northern Ireland and business and industry, and politically met with all the parties.”
Mr Martin said the EU has made “very significant” advances to resolve the issues flowing from the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He said he and the European Commission are in “solution mode”.
He added: “The British Government has pleaded that they didn’t fully understand the implications of the protocol or with the Withdrawal Agreement.
“I think the European Commission has now demonstrated that they are really open and willing to bring a resolution to this.”
Mr Martin said that during his last meeting with Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister indicated he wanted another opportunity to seek a resolution.
“The stakes are high in respect of making sure that we can maintain the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and political stability in Northern Ireland,” the Fianna Fail leader added.
He said Northern Ireland has been handed a good opportunity with retaining access to the single market and the market in Great Britain.
He said it is “very advantageous” for different sectors of the economy.
“I think there’s a real responsibility on all parties, including the United Kingdom Government, to engage responsibly and seriously with this package,” he added.
Under the terms of the protocol, which was agreed by the UK and EU as part of the 2020 Withdrawal Agreement, the European Court of Justice would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol.
The UK now wants to remove that provision and replace it with an independent arbitration process.
Mr Martin said the main sticking issues flagged by some parties in Northern Ireland are the free-flow of goods between Great Britain and the province.
“Even in discussions with the British Prime Minister that I had with him it was about, for example, chilled meats,” he added.
“Mostly people would speak about the sausages getting through to Northern Ireland, well now you know what, the sausages will get to Northern Ireland.”
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney tweeted: “We listened to people of NI, we are changing our rules. It’s up to UK government and protocol can be success for all.”