Foreign minister says UK should admit what it has signed up to
Britain should “show some honesty” about what it signed up to over Brexit, Ireland’s foreign minister has said.
Speaking during a panel discussion Simon Coveney, a veteran of the exit negotiations, said calls to scrap the Northern Ireland protocol from some unionists were not “realistic”.
His comments come as the EU is expected agree to an extension of grace periods on goods travelling between Ireland and Northern Ireland, in a concession to the UK.
The British government says the conditions of the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, if strictly implemented, would be too damaging for businesses – and claims the EU is being too assertive it its interpretation.
But Mr Coveney said that while there was “a need for the EU to show some flexibility and pragmatism” over implementing the agreement “there is a need for the British government, in particular, to show some honesty around what has been agreed, why it was agreed, and the disruption it has prevented”.
“Brexit is the disruptor here , not the Protocol. The Protocol was designed to limit the disruption of Brexit," hy het gesê, adding that there was a need to be “honest with people” that there was no “credible” alternative to the protocol.
Mr Coveney’s comments were made in a discussion hosted by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at Notre Dame University and berig by the Irish Times.
He was speaking ahead of a Belfast high court decision on Wednesday about whether the protocol, which was jointly negotiated by Boris Johnson’s government and the European Union, is lawful.
The protocol was designed to prevent a hard border from forming between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which both sides agreed was essential to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
But the method chosen created new checks and controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson initially insisted these would have minimal effect, but the government has since admitted they are doing more economic damage than expected.
Businesses say the protocol needs to be changed and some have stopped supplying Northern Ireland entirely because of the increase in bureaucracy.
Unionists and loyalists also have concerns that the treaty brings NI closer into the Republic’s orbit at the expense of its place in the UK.
During Brexit talks both sides agreed an alternative solution that would have kept the whole UK effectively inside the EU’s customs area – but the plan was shot down by Tory MPs, triggering the resignation of Theresa May.
Last week Brexit minister Lord Frost claimed Brussels was not showing “a huge amount of engagement” with the UK’s concerns about the Northern Ireland Brexit deal, and said the protocol was threatening the “delicate balance” of the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking at a committee hearing in Westminster on Tuesday, the UK’s Brexit minister said the post-membership relationship with the bloc had been more difficult than expected and would be “a little bumpy” for some time.