The UK and EU must honor their obligations under the Brexit plan they jointly negotiated, Irish Premier Michael Martin told US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. 

“With a new trading relationship now in place between the European Union and the United Kingdom, and a protocol that protects peace and avoids a hard border on this island, I want to move forward with a positive relationship with the United Kingdom,” Martin said in brief remarks before a virtual bilateral meeting with Biden on St. Patrick’s Day.

Martin was referring to the island of Ireland in his remarks. Speculation had mounted that a hard border between the Republic and the North would be necessitated by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

But a component of its exit deal known as the Northern Ireland protocol seeks to end the need for a hard border, instead easing customs controls between the north and the Republic of Ireland, a standing member of the EU.

Only some goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would be subject to customs inspections under the protocol, particularly food. An agreed-upon grace period is set to run out at the end of March, but the UK has since said it will unilaterally extend the protocol’s requirements through October, prompting a lawsuit from the EU.

Martin said ensuring Ireland and the UK have a positive relationship going forward “means standing by what has been agreed and working together to make a success of it. And that, in turn, then can help maintain peace and promote greater reconciliation on our shared island.”

The protocol is intended to prevent the need for a hard border between the North and the Republic over fears that it would lead to a return to bloodshed in the North. Its pro-UK groups, known as unionists, have staunchly rebuffed the protocol, arguing it sets Northern Ireland on a path towards separation from the rest of the UK.

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