More focus on livelihoods needed in Brexit talks, says Irish opposition leader

Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin said a Brexit deal could be secured with a Northern Ireland-specific solution.

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin

Brexit negotiators need to dial down the “megaphone diplomacy and triumphalism” and focus on securing an agreement that will protect livelihoods, the leader of Ireland’s main opposition party has said.

Micheal Martin expressed hope that a Northern Ireland-specific solution to the Brexit impasse could pave the way for a deal before October 31.

Attending the showpiece of the Ireland’s agricultural calendar, the National Ploughing Championships in Co Carlow, Mr Martin urged both sides to take a “step back” and cool the temperature of exchanges.

“Political games are over, one-upmanship has to be over,” he said.

National Ploughing Championships
Micheal Martin at the National Ploughing Championships (Niall Carson/PA)

The Fianna Fail leader also cautioned against leaks from the negotiations, insisting they undermined the process.

With the process deadlocked over the withdrawal agreement’s border backstop – a mechanism that would tie the whole UK to a customs union with the EU – some believe a compromise could lie in a Northern Ireland-tailored resolution to keep the border open.

UK negotiators are understood to be drawing up proposals that would see Northern Ireland continue to follow EU rules on agriculture, foodstuffs and some other products while maintaining the common electricity market with the Republic.

The DUP has signalled that it could live with certain all-island arrangements.

The EU remains sceptical and has expressed frustration that substantive proposals have yet to be presented by the UK side.

Mr Martin said: “In my view there are clear ideas as to where this is heading, it is heading towards a Northern Ireland-specific solution.

“The difficulty will be in finalising that, but that’s where it is heading.

“I think Brussels knows that, I think the Irish Government knows that, I think the British Government knows that.”

He added: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say that you can move from a UK-wide backstop to a Northern Ireland-specific solution.”

Mr Martin said more complex problems had been resolved in the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

“It shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of political leadership in the UK and here and in Northern Ireland to protect the livelihoods of the people we represent,” he said.

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