TAOSIEACH Micheál Martin has warned that any move by the British Government to remove or alter sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol would be “deeply damaging”.
Britain this week tabled new legislation in parliament which, if passed, would allows parts of the controversial Protocol to be overridden.
However, Mr Martin, speaking at the European Parliament in an address to mark 50 years of Ireland’s EU membership, claims any attempt by the British Government to alter the Protocol would be "deeply damaging" and mark a "historic low-point".
“I have said many times that there are solutions to practical problems under the Protocol if there is a political will to find them,” the Taoiseach said.
“But that requires partnership. It requires the UK Government to engage with good faith, seriousness, and commitment.
“Unilateral action to set aside a solemn agreement would be deeply damaging,” he added.
“It would mark a historic low-point signalling a disregard for essential principles of laws which are the foundation of international relations.
“And it would, quite literally, be to the benefit of absolutely no one.
The Protocol is the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which prevents a hard border being created in Ireland following Britain’s exit of the EU.
In practice it has created new checks required on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Issues that have arisen as a result of those regulations have caused ongoing concern among the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who are currently blocking efforts to restore power sharing in the North until their demands on the agreement are met.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone believes changing the Protocol legislation now would put livelihoods in the North at risk.
Mr McGlone said the performance of the North’s economy post-Brexit was proof that the Protocol was working for businesses there.
“The act of economic self-harm the British government is planning to inflict on the North will have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods and put the prosperity of many businesses at serious risk,” he said.
“We have heard from the NI Dairy Council and countless others about the benefits they receive as a direct result of the Protocol and they are deeply concerned about the impact this legislation will have.
“This British government has proved time and time again that they have no interest in the North or what’s best for people here, they only wish to use this place as a pawn to shore up their own faltering political futures.
“Boris Johnson may soon be gone - he cannot be allowed to take this new-found economic opportunity for the North with him.”
He added: “We are not deaf to the concerns unionists have with the Protocol, but these problems will not be solved by the DUP’s boycott, only by constructive negotiations between the government and the EU to resolve the small number of outstanding issues.
“We didn’t want Brexit, we voted against it and the Protocol is necessary to protect us from its worst aspects.
“The best thing for the North is for an agreement to be reached, our institutions to get up and running again and these economic opportunities exploited to their fullest to benefit people here.”