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Monday, December 5, 2022
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    British, Irish leaders bid to resolve N Ireland Brexit dispute

    LONDON (AFP) – United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday hosted his Irish counterpart Micheal Martin, as they bid to end a dispute over post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland that has stymied power-sharing.

    The two leaders met in Blackpool, northwest England, with signs that frosty ties are thawing over the issue that has paralysed Northern Irish politics and put London at loggerheads with Brussels and Dublin.

    In a sign of renewed commitment to resolving the row, Sunak will become the first UK prime minister since 2007 to open the bi-annual British-Irish Council summit.

    Downing Street said Sunak will tell Martin he is “determined” to help restore the power-sharing assembly in Belfast “as soon as possible”.

    It collapsed in February over opposition from pro-UK unionists to the Northern Ireland Protocol governing post-Brexit trade.

    In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the House of Commons in London. PHOTO: AP

    The pact was signed separately from the trade and cooperation deal that cemented the UK’s formal departure from the European Union (EU) in January 2021.

    But its implementation has proven a flashpoint for disagreement between the bloc, member state Ireland and Britain – and even threatens a possible EU-UK trade war.

    The protocol kept Northern Ireland in the European single market and customs union, stipulating checks on goods moving from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland.

    That was designed to prevent a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – a key plank of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that largely ended three decades of conflict.

    But it has enraged hardline unionists, including the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), leading to their boycott of the Stormont assembly in Belfast earlier this year.

    Elections in May further complicated the situation, after pro-Irish party Sinn Fein on a historic first election.

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