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Boris Johnson Will Meet Ireland's Taoiseach Amid Tension Over Northern Ireland Protocol

2 min read

Boris Johnson will host Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin at his Chequers residence on Friday, Downing Street and Dublin sources have confirmed to PoliticsHome.

The Prime Minister and Martin, leader of Republic of Ireland, will talk about UK-Ireland relations over lunch, sources on both sides said.

The pair are expected to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol amid continued tensions over the impact of the post-Brexit treaty on the province's relationship with Great Britain.

Last month Johnson faced pressure from opposition MPs and ex-government ministers to convene a meeting with his Irish counterpart after violence broke out on the streets of Northern Ireland. 

There is frustration among Northern Ireland's loyalist communities with how the Brexit negotiated by the Westminster government has affected the province's trade with the rest of the UK.

Under the Protocol, agreed by negotiators as part of Brexit talks, Northern Ireland continues to follow swathes of EU rules in order to avoid a contentious hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

However, it has led to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, creating delays and additional costs for businesses sending goods across the Irish Sea. Unionists say the new barriers threaten Northern Ireland's place in the UK and, by extension, their identity.

Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister, this week warned it was "hard to see" how the Protocol in its current form "can be sustainable for long" after visting affected businesses in Northern Ireland.UK and Brussels officials are currently engaged in talks about how the Protocol can potentially be simplified for businesses sending goods across the Irish Sea.

Joao Vale de Almeida, the bloc's ambassador to the UK, at the weekend told PoliticsHome the EU was "emotionally" invested in finding solutions and said officials on both sides were working "hard, well and intensively".

However, the UK and the EU remain far apart on a how the Protocol can be altered.

The government wants the EU to relax its stringent Sanitary & Phytosanitary (SPS) rules for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain in order to reduce the volume of paperwork. However, the EU believes this would put its Single Market at risk and is pushing the UK to align with its rules.

Vale de Almedia said that while the EU had the "best goodwill" to find solutions with the UK, it "cannot accept solutions that put at risk the health and security of our consumers".

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