Varadkar expresses regret that NI Protocol was imposed without unionist consent

Ireland’s premier has expressed regret that the Northern Ireland Protocol was imposed on the region without the support of unionists. Leo Varadkar said the EU was willing

to be “flexible” and “reasonable” in negotiations with the UK to achieve “broader support” within Northern Ireland for the post-Brexit trading arrangements. Mr Varadkar, who

became Taoiseach for a second time in December, said the prospect of London and Brussels striking a deal before the landmark anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement in

April was “very real”. Since becoming premier again, Mr Varadkar has made a series of comments in which he has acknowledged mistakes and regrets in relation to the

protocol. His remarks have been interpreted as a softening of the Fine Gael leader’s tone about the contentious arrangements. The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU

in 2019 as a way to unlock the logjam over securing a Brexit withdrawal agreement. Designed as a means to keep the Irish land border free-flowing, it moved regulatory and

customs checks on goods to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Many unionists in Northern Ireland are vehemently

opposed to arrangements they claim have weakened the region’s place within the union. The DUP is currently blocking the functioning of powersharing at Stormont and has made

clear it will not allow devolution to return unless major changes to the protocol are delivered. Mr Varadkar was in his first term as Taoiseach when the protocol was agreed

and was an instrumental figure in its creation.