Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove believes Britain and Ireland can work together to iron out Brexit issues

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove believes Britain and Ireland can work together to iron out Brexit issues

THE challenges posed by the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol can be “overcome” according to Secretary of State Michael Gove.

The former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is now Britain’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, believes the British and Irish governments can work together to find a solution to the issues created by the implementation of the Protocol.

Created within Britain’s Brexit agreement, the Protocol prevents a hard border being created between the North and southern Ireland, by keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU's single market for goods.

It was agreed by the EU and the UK in October 2019.

However, implementing the Protocol has proved difficult and divisive ever since, with Unionist parties claiming it undermines the North’s position within the UK and the EU accepting that difficulties have arisen for businesses in the North as a result of it.

Discussions between the EU and the UK on how to address those concerns are still ongoing, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss now Britain’s lead Brexit negotiator - a role she took on in January 2021, following the resignation Lord David Frost.

Mr Gove, speaking at a St Patrick’s Day reception hosted by CHAMP and Tourism Ireland in the House of Lords, is confident a solution can be found.

“Friends sometimes disagree and there are one or two political challenges that we have to overcome,” he told those gathered for the event on Wednesday, March 16.

“But I know, thanks to the energy of my good friend Liz Truss, and the goodwill of the Irish government of Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, that we can overcome those challenges,” he said.

“Because all of us have the interest of Northern Ireland and indeed the interests of the people of the Ireland and the United Kingdom at heart,” Mr Gove explained to his Westminster audience – which included Irish community leaders from across the capital.

“And with goodwill we can overcome those challenges and it’s so important that we do because we do have so much in common.”

Mr Gove went on to remind those in the room of the great progress already made in British-Irish relations.

“We have been reminded that this is a year of centenaries and think about how much has changed in the last 100 years, as Britain and Ireland have learned to be liberal democracies, to be countries that can work together, to be countries, even at this point, on the world stage that others look to for leadership,” he said.

“It’s that spirit of unity between our countries and our peoples that this St Patrick’s Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate,’ he added.

Special guest at the CHAMP event was Ireland’s Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who revealed that the Irish Government had to decide “what kind of St Patrick’s Day we should have” in 2022 against the backdrop of war in Ukraine.

“If I couldn’t be at home in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day I wanted to be here in London,” he said.

“Why? well if you think of the values that are at the heart of St Patrick’s Day back home in Ireland and when it is celebrated across the globe, these are values of celebration, even in these difficult times, it is about celebrating the value of friendships, the value of relationships and the value of welcome.”

Minister Donohoe, who spent two days in London, went on to admit that this year’s St Patrick’s Day is more about solidarity than celebration due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

“How worthy and how appropriate is a moment of celebration when our neighbours, our fellow humans, elsewhere, and increasingly nearby, are experiencing such terror and such loss of life?” he said

“It was a matter we reflected on in our government,” he explained, “about what kind of St Patrick’s Day we should have when so many are experiencing the exact opposite of friendship, solidarity and welcome”.

Mr Donohoe explained that after personally reflecting on the question he realised “actually if there was ever a moment, ever a day, ever a time when we needed to be reminded of the values of friendship, the values of connection, of coming together to talk to be in each other’s company, surely it is now”.

“Surely moments like this in their own small way offer a flicker of light against a darkness that is rising,” he said.