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Government dismisses Boris Johnson’s ‘tense’ account of call over protocol with Taoiseach

Senior government source said suggestion tone was dramatic was for ‘UK media and public consumption’


Taoiseach Micheál Martin and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Brian Lawless

The Government has dismissed Downing Street’s version of the call between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as being for “UK media and public consumption”.

A senior Government source said the call between the two leaders was “serious and detailed” but “wasn’t tense” or “overly dramatic”.

In a statement yesterday, Downing Street said Mr Johnson warned Mr Martin he will have “no choice” but to trigger Article 16 if talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol do not produce a “rebalanced and sustainable outcome soon”.

An Irish Government source said Mr Johnson was “working off a script” for most of the call and there was “nothing alarming” in what the prime minister said.

“The prime minister said he didn’t want to trigger Article 16 but might have to if matters aren’t resolved, but he was leaving room for solutions,” the source said.

“The officials are reading between the lines and there has definitely been a softening of tone.”

The Irish Government did not release a statement after the call but the Taoiseach tweeted that he told Mr Johnson that “every effort should be made to secure a successful outcome to the current EU/UK negotiations”.

In its statement, Downing Street said the prime minister and the Taoiseach agreed a “negotiated outcome was the preferred outcome and to work hard to achieve it”.

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“The prime minister was clear, however, that if talks were not able to deliver a rebalanced and sustainable outcome soon, the Government would be left with no choice but to use the safeguard measures under Article 16,” the statement said.

“This was a perfectly legitimate provision in the protocol that had been agreed by all parties.”

The prime minister told the Taoiseach there is “ongoing concern about the substantial distance between the UK and EU positions” when it comes to resolving the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said the protocol is “rightly” keeping North-South trade open but its implementation is “damaging the much larger East-West dimension”.

“We could not allow a situation to develop in which the Government was unable to provide economic support to Northern Ireland in the same way it could in the rest of the UK. Ultimately Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market was crucial to its long-term prosperity and could not be damaged,” Mr Johnson said.

The prime minister said the implementation of the protocol is “colliding with economic and political realities and significant change was necessary”. He added that the Court of Justice was part of this “fundamental imbalance because disputes were decided in the court of one party”.

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