Ireland’s ambassador to UK urges negotiations to resolve Brexit protocol issues

Ireland’s newly arrived ambassador Martin Fraser, formerly Ireland’s most senior civil servant and the individual who led the country’s response to Covid, spoke at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.

Post-Brexit rules have created disagreement about the way forward (Brian Lawless/PA)

He is also a former director of the Irish government’s Northern Ireland division.

He stressed the need to find a negotiated solution to the problems surrounding Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.

Ambassador Martin Fraser, who succeeded Adrian O’Neill last month, said he was an optimistic of resolving the issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But to do that it will be necessary to move from words to action, he said.

The UK Government is legislating to tear up parts of the agreement it signed, covering how goods moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are treated.

Ambassador Fraser, speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, said the protocol is the only way to resolve the problems caused by Brexit.

The agreement, negotiated by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, keeps Northern Ireland aligned with many EU single market rules to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Some checks are required for goods crossing the Irish Sea.


“How do we solve it? We solve it by negotiating through the issues that are there.


In February the pro-Brexit DUP withdrew from the power sharing executive in protest.

In the Assembly election the party was beaten into second place by Sinn Féin and thus lost its claim to the First Minister position, even though, under power sharing, the posts of First and Deputy First Minister are equal in status and authority.

It has been refusing to go back into government, citing the Protocol as the reason.

Ambassador Fraser acknowledged there were “legitimate concerns” but said: “How do we solve it? We solve it by negotiating through the issues that are there.

“From our point of view, from the European Union, we solve it by implementing the protocol that was agreed with the British government, which the British government signed and fought an election, passed through Parliament.

“We think it’s the best and only solution but, of course, we recognise that people have legitimate issues and we do definitely recognise that the Unionist community in Northern Ireland has legitimate concerns which we have to try and address.

“But we address them by negotiating.”

Asked if he was optimistic about the situation, he said: “I think we have to solve this problem, I think we can, I think we should.”

He added: “I couldn’t have worked on Northern Ireland politics for the best part of 20 years without being optimistic and I think we should all be optimistic.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Liz Truss told CNN she would prefer a “negotiated solution with the EU” over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

She told CNN’s State Of The Union programme: “What’s important is that we protect and respect the positions of both the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, as well as the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

“So what I want to do is find a way forward and my preference is a negotiated solution with the EU that protects that north-south relationship, but also protects the east-west relationship, and that is absolutely core to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement”.

Asked whether it was just a matter of time before a referendum on Irish reunification is held, after last year’s census figures revealed Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time, Ms Truss said: “No, I don’t.”