President Biden’s assurance that a British-EU compromise on Brexit would not block a future UK-USA trade deal has paved the way to resolving the crux, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin’s comments came at a British-Irish meeting in Fermanagh where Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster treated those in attendance to a little song extract on her last day in office.
The Taoiseach again welcomed President Biden’s intervention in the Brexit row over Northern Ireland’s special trade status. Mr Martin noted that Mr Biden said that if the UK accepted EU animal and food health standards - known as SPS – “this would not militate against a special trade deal with the USA”.
“It’s clear now that the UK can put together a deal with the United States on trade and an SPS deal would not be an impediment,” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Martin was speaking at the end of a British-Irish Council meeting in Co Fermanagh. This was the very last official outing as Northern Ireland First Minister and former Democratic Unionist Party leader, Arlene Foster, which she hosted in her own constituency.
Ms Foster even gave the final press conference a short blast of her party piece song – the old Frank Sinatra number That’s Life. She quickly stressed: “You’re riding high in April – shot down in May” – which epitomised her own acrimonious exit from the North’s top political job.
The gathering was also attended by senior UK minister Michael Gove who was upbeat about the prospect of compromise in the damaging row, while avoiding discussing any detail.
Mr Gove said some people saw the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol as “an all or nothing deal” – but he stressed that it could be varied to yield a compromise.
“I believe there is a willingness among pragmatic people in the European Union to make sure these arrangements can work,” Mr Gove said. He also paid tribute to the stance adopted by the Dublin Government.
The British-Irish Council was set up under the1998 Good Friday Agreement. Its members include the Irish government; UK government; Scottish government; Northern Ireland executive; Welsh government; Isle of Man government; and the governments of Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Isles.
This was the first face-to-face meeting of the various leaders since the Covid-19 outbreak.