Irish foreign minister and Northern Ireland parties welcome progress on protocol

The Irish foreign affairs minister has welcomed progress between the EU and the UK on post-Brexit data sharing.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris met European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in London on Monday, in ongoing talks between London and Brussels to find a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol row.

They reached agreement in the area of data sharing and EU access to British IT systems amid friction over the implementation of the post-Brexit arrangements, which has seen the DUP insist it will not take part in devolved government at Stormont until its concerns are resolved.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin welcomed the progress, adding this “provides a new basis for EU-UK discussions”.

“It is important that joint solutions are found,” he said, adding that he will be in Brussels on Tuesday for meetings around the protocol and other issues.

Mr Martin also spoke with Northern Ireland political leaders on the telephone on Monday.

He described “good engagement”, and said he is focused on getting the Stormont government back up and running.

The Stormont parties are due to meet Mr Heaton-Harris later this week around the latest collapse of the institutions.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill described a “good call” with Mr Martin.

She tweeted: “We share a common commitment on way forward to get negotiated outcome on Protocol and immediate restoration of power-sharing.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

“My priority is to work with all parties & both Governments to achieve this in days and weeks ahead.”

Meanwhile DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed what he termed recognition in London, Dublin and Brussels that the protocol is a problem for unionists.

“It was a mistake for the protocol’s authors to press ahead with an agreement that has harmed Northern Ireland’s constitutional and economic place within the United Kingdom,” he said.

“More and more voices now recognise the unanimous view amongst unionist MLAs.

“We have an opportunity to get an outcome from these negotiations which replaces the protocol by arrangements that restore NI’s place in the UK internal market and our constitutional position is respected.

“I am committed to the restoration of Stormont, but such a restoration can only be durable if it is built on solid foundations which are supported by unionists and nationalists.”

He described his telephone conversation with Mr Martin earlier as “a useful conversation as the Republic of Ireland is an EU member state and fits as part of a wider programme of engagement with influential voices in London and Brussels”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he discussed with Mr Martin “the urgent need to restore the powersharing institutions at Stormont”.

“I had a productive call with the Tanaiste this morning,” he said.

“Our shared priority remains the restoration of the devolved institutions at Stormont. With crises facing the delivery of public services and household finances in every community, it is vital that the Assembly and executive are back up and running as soon as possible.”