Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney has warned the UK government that unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol could undermine the peace process.
r Coveney said there was a need to address unionists’ concerns about how trade deals would work post-Brexit, but stressed a majority of voters in Northern Ireland backed pro-protocol parties.
He said the way to deal with the problems surrounding the protocol was continued dialogue between the EU and the UK, and he warned that any move by London to back away from the agreements would make global headlines that Britain willing to violate international law.
“What I see at the moment is a UK government making statements and briefings against the EU and creating a lot of tension in my country, your closest neighbour, and possibly also about to make a decision that fundamentally undermines the way it works could of the institutions of the peace process in Northern Ireland,” he told Sky News.
“Let us not forget that this is not just about unionism, of course it has to be partly about unionism, but a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voted against Brexit and would vote against it again the morning it is put before them Vote Brexit.
“A majority of people in Northern Ireland support the protocol because they see it doing a fair job of managing the disruption to Brexit in the Irish circumstances.
“There is a minority, a large minority within the unions, who are unhappy with the protocol. There are solutions we can implement that can allay those concerns and that’s what we need to focus on together,” he said.
“What is happening at the moment has forced Ireland to take a much tougher position and respond honestly to the unhelpful briefings we are receiving from very, very high levels of UK Government this week, which appears to be laying the groundwork for a decision , which I believe could be deeply damaging to the UK-Ireland relationship if we don’t see the point in the next few days.”
Mr Coveney said there would be “consequences” if the UK overturned the protocol, but he insisted the EU was not about making threats.
“The EU is not threatening anything,” he said. “I don’t think we should be focusing right now on how the EU would react to the UK government willfully breaking international law.
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“Instead, we must try to avoid this situation. But I think everyone understands when the UK government decides to override international law to create significant uncertainty on the island of Ireland in relation to single market membership and a whole host of other things… of course there is a consequence that EU is forced to react, but that’s not where we want to be.
“Where we want to be is good neighbors, good friends and solving problems together. I would encourage influencers within the UK government to ensure this is the path they choose.”
Mr Coveney added: “In the UK, one often gets the impression that Northern Ireland is deeply unhappy with the protocol and that a majority of people want change – that’s just not true. The majority of the people of Northern Ireland have just voted for candidates who are actually in favor of protocol because it handles the disruption of Brexit.
“There is a landing zone and a solution that we can get to here if there is a real partnership to try to solve these problems.
“Some of what has been said this week by various members of the UK Cabinet is not helpful in helping us get there.
“But I hope there is an opportunity in the next few days to get that dialogue going again and avoid creating a lot of unnecessary tension by releasing unilateral legislation that would make headlines around the world that the UK intentionally breaking international law and creating enormous tensions with their nearest neighbors, potentially undermining a peace process.”
The Irish minister said the conflict in Ukraine made it more important for the EU and the UK to work together.
“We have great challenges to master together,” he said.
“The EU has not threatened anything, not a trade war and nothing else.
“What the EU wants is partnership so that we can work together to resolve the remaining issues surrounding the protocol, which was of course designed to try to manage the disruption of Brexit on the island of Ireland.
“The last thing the EU wants, the last thing Ireland wants is tensions with the UK, especially given what is happening in Ukraine, Russian aggression and the need to work together internationally.
“Unfortunately, it was the briefings that came out from the UK Government this week that raised a real red flag in Dublin and in Brussels because the UK Government is now threatening to break international law to break a treaty they have signed with the EU, and which they drafted with the EU and ratified by a large majority in the House of Commons, creating potentially huge problems on the island of Ireland.”
Simon Coveney said “saber-rattling” and “grandstanding” at Westminster was not the way the problems of the Northern Ireland Protocol would be resolved.
“At a time when the world needs the unity of the western world to act together, to solve problems together. This is a problem that we must solve together. The last thing Ireland wants, the last thing the EU needs, is tensions with a country the size and influence of the UK.
“So let’s work together over the summer to resolve these issues and get institutions up and running again in Northern Ireland.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to Belfast on Monday for crisis talks with political parties as protocol remains politically deadlocked.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/simon-coveney-says-there-would-be-a-consequence-if-the-uk-moved-to-override-the-northern-ireland-protocol-41651570.html Simon Coveney says there would be “consequences” if Britain were to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol