‘I know what you said!’ Varadkar savages Boris in Brexit outrage as PM plots next move

Queen's Speech: Prince Charles addresses House of Lords

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Speaking earlier today (Tuesday), the Irish Tánaiste said any changes to the controversial agreement “can’t be unilateral” following threats from Mr Johnson to suspend parts of the Protocol without the EU’s consent. He said the Irish Government, as a member state, was “on the European Union team” in renegotiations.

His comments come following last week’s elections in Northern Ireland, which saw Sinn Fein become the largest party for the first time in the nation’s history.

The result marks changing sentiments in Northern Ireland away from the harder stance the British Government has taken on the deal.

Mr Varadkar said the “voice of Northern Ireland” should be included in discussions about the Protocol, but this could only be done once there was a legislative executive.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, it can happen only with the dual assent of the largest nationalist and unionist parties.

However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would not form a new executive with Sinn Fein until “decisive action” had been taken on the Protocol.

Unionists fear the current agreement will continue to cause shortages and delays transporting goods into Northern Ireland, as well as damaging the economy.

Meanwhile, others fear another period of political instability in Northern Ireland, after the power-sharing agreement broke down in 2017 and control of the nation had to be assumed by Westminster.

In the Queen’s Speech today, delivered by Prince Charles, the Government said the “continued success and integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom is of paramount importance”, including “the internal economic bonds between all of its parts”.

The Prince of Wales added the Government “will prioritise support for the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its institutions”.

However, the speech conspicuously did not mention a pledge to bring forward legislation to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which would allow the UK to unilaterally suspend parts of the agreement.

It follows claims last month the Government could bring forward a new law as early as this month.

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech, Mr Varadkar told RTE: “I think it’s one thing to lay your cards on the table, or maybe engage in a little bit of sabre-rattling around what you might do in the context of negotiations, but if they were actually to go down that route, it would be very serious.”

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He added: “Any changes can’t be unilateral, they have to be agreed; we can’t have any unilateral action from the UK.

“This is an international agreement, they do have to honour their obligations. I was in the Wirral with Boris Johnson, I know what he agreed to.

“I was there when the treaty was agreed – the withdrawal agreement and the TCA. And that was brought and put in front of the British people by Boris Johnson as an oven-ready deal. They can’t resile from that unilaterally.”

Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar had met in Wirral in October 2019, a meeting which has been attributed to restarting stalled Brexit negotiations with the EU.

The Prime Minister of Ireland also noted: “We’re on the European Union team, if you like, when it comes to negotiations.”

Following last week’s election, Government ministers have been among those to urge party leaders in Northern Ireland to form an executive.

Earlier today, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he had spoken over the phone with Mr Johnson about Northern Ireland, and that both agreed “on the need to see the Northern Irish executive formed as soon as possible”.

Mr Varadkar – who was previously Ireland’s Taoiseach – said that the UK Government “has to have regard” to the fact that the Northern Irish elections returned a majority of parties who do not want Protocol scrapped, but instead want changes to be made.

He said that it was “really important” that “we should have the voice of Northern Ireland in this process”.

However, Mr Varadkar added: “At the moment, the leaders there only have a mandate to speak for their parties, and no party won a majority of the votes in Northern Ireland.

“So what we need is an Executive, and it’s only when we have an Executive, a deputy First Minister and a First Minister, that the voice of Northern Ireland can be brought to the table.”

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