Sunak extends Brexit olive branch to VDL and Irish PM in urgent call

PMQs: Rishi Sunak’s first opening statement as PM

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Rishi Sunak extended a Brexit olive branch to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin in urgent calls to both leaders. The UK’s new Prime Minister told Irish premier Mr Martin in a call his preference remains a “negotiated outcome” on the Northern Ireland Protocol. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Taoiseach Micheal Martin this evening.

“The leaders agreed on the vital importance of a strong relationship between the UK and Ireland and expressed their determination to build on that friendship in the coming months.

“The Prime Minister welcomed Ireland’s ongoing support for Ukraine, and the leaders agreed on the importance of continued international unity in the face of (Vladimir) Putin’s aggression.

“Discussing the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Prime Minister set out that his preference remained a negotiated outcome and hoped all parties would approach the current challenges with pragmatism and goodwill.

“The leaders agreed on the urgent need for a functioning executive in Northern Ireland. Both undertook to continue discussions in the coming weeks and months.”

The Taoiseach said he spoke with Mr Sunak about the need to find “agreed solutions” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He tweeted: “Good conversation with British PM Rishi Sunak this evening. Discussed co-operation on Ukraine and ongoing developments in NI. Agreed on importance of EU-UK negotiations to find agreed solutions on the protocol.”

European Commission President Ms von der Leyen reflected on a “very good phone call” with the Prime Minister.

She tweeted: “Very good phone call with UK PM Rishi Sunak. (The EU and UK) are strategic partners.

“Looking forward to working on crucial issues such as Russia’s war on Ukraine and climate change.

“And on finding joint solutions under the (Northern Ireland) Protocol on IE/NI that will provide stability and predictability.”

The UK and EU have been at loggerheads over the Northern Ireland Protocol over recent months and is threatening to divide a wedge between the two sides. 

When former Prime Minister Liz Truss was Foreign Secretary, she introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill into Parliament that would see Britain override large parts of the mechanism overseeing post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland. Brussels has reacted furiously and warned of fierce retaliation if the UK Government proceeds with this move.

Earlier today, Irish Prime Minister Mr Martin said Europe is ready to negotiate with the UK Government on the Northern Ireland Protocol

He hopes Mr Sunak will agree with his predecessor Ms Truss that “negotiation is the preferred option in terms of resolving the issues around the protocol”.

Mr Martin said: “I’m in no doubt that Europe stands ready to be flexible in terms of all matters pertaining to the protocol and also in the context of the geopolitical difficulties that we’re facing across Europe.

“With the first war on the continent of Europe since World War Two, the need for like-minded countries, United Kingdom, European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan and so forth to be together in dealing with that issue, that really puts the issue of the protocol in context and the necessity to get it resolved.”

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