The EU does not feel it can trust its negotiations with the UK and is likely to pursue legal action over breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said.
The UK has extended the grace period for checks on some items under the Brexit protocol without consulting with Europe, a move which Mr Coveney called "very unhelpful".
He said the UK has "changed its approach" and left the EU feeling that it cannot trust the UK.
“It’s the British government essentially breaking the protocol, breaking their own commitments – again – and the EU having to then consider how they respond to that."
Mr Coveney said he had had a "blunt" conversation with Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis and advised against the UK's move.
“I strongly advised them not to do it because I felt this would really damage the relationship with the European Union and with Vice President (Maroš) Šefčovič in particular,” he said.
I'll be speaking to @DavidGHFrost tonight on the implementation of 🇪🇺🇬🇧agreements. I'll be raising our strong concerns on the respect of the IE/NI Protocol, following today's announcements.— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) March 3, 2021
As ever, we remain firm on our political and legal obligations.https://t.co/iKgNEaWdeM
“And the relationship between David Frost (the UK's lead negotiator) and Vice President Šefčovič is a really important one for Ireland and for our future on this island in terms of the pragmatic implementation of the protocol and what’s been agreed in international law.
"And before David Frost had even spoken in detail to Maroš Šefčovič in his new role, this was announced in a written statement by the British government in Westminster.
Ten days ago the UK had committed to implementing the Protocol, but now there was a new person in charge and they had taken a different direction, leaving the EU with no option but to look at their legal options, he said.
“That is why the EU is now looking at legal options and legal action which means a much more formalised and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve the problems together.”
EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness told Morning Ireland the EU will "be the adults in the room".
“We’re trying to resolve a problem we didn’t create, it was caused by Brexit.”
The political realities of the UK’s unilateral action will have to be separated from the practical realities being faced on the ground by Northern Ireland businesses, she said.
“We will never get the right solution if the two parties don’t agree on a way forward.”