Simon Coveney: Liz Truss' protocol comments put EU-UK relations under more strain

The Minister for Foreign Affairs in a visit to Belfast today, also said he was hopeful a Stormont speaker could be elected this week
Simon Coveney: Liz Truss' protocol comments put EU-UK relations under more strain

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK “will not shy away” from taking action on the Northern Ireland protocol.

Relations between the UK and the EU have been put under further strain by comments made by the British Foreign Secretary over the Northern Ireland protocol, Simon Coveney has said.

Liz Truss said the UK “will not shy away” from taking action on the protocol in comments given to the British media, sparking fears the British government will override an international agreement.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the comments have "gone down very badly" across the European Union which has been showing a willingness to compromise and find solutions on common ground.

“What they're hearing and seeing from London is a rejection of that approach towards a breach of international law and setting aside elements of a treaty that the British government was central to putting in place with the EU. So that hasn't gone down well, and I hope that decision-makers in Westminster will reflect on that.” 

Mr Coveney says the EU and Ireland have shown flexibility and the ongoing political issues in Northern Ireland should give the British government pause for thought on the protocol issue.

“I think we've been very consistent on this. We don't believe that the way forward in terms of solving outstanding issues can be done unilaterally by either side. The way to solve outstanding issues in relation to Brexit and the protocol on Northern Ireland is through partnership, through compromise.

“That's what we want to do. Of course, those issues are also now part of getting developed institutions back up and running in Northern Ireland as well, to make it even more complicated.” 

Mr Coveney, who was speaking in Belfast before meeting with the Northern Ireland parties in the wake of the election on Friday, said he was hopeful a Stormont speaker could be elected this week.

“Obviously we need to work towards trying to find a way of an executive being set up to function as well,” he added. 

I think people in Northern Ireland want Northern Ireland politicians making decisions on their behalf and we're here to support that.

Mr Coveney said he had had “positive and direct and blunt conversations” with the party leaders in Northern Ireland.

“The Irish government wants to be a constructive part of what is, we know, a difficult process to get devolved governments up and running and to get the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement functioning. 

“I recognise that many in the unionist community have serious reservations in relation to the protocol and its implementation and the consequences for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and so on. We're in the space of trying to address those concerns, where possible, but also being honest about the parameters within which we have to try to to address those concerns, but I believe there is a landing zone."

Mr Coveney said the British government is moving away from its commitments under the Stormont House Agreement.

“What we want is partnership, friendship and how neighbours should behave with each other, to rebuild trust and try and solve some of these problems together. The truth is that Northern Ireland has functioned at its best when the two governments have been working in partnership.

“And I'm afraid that kind of partnership is absent at the moment on some of these really important issues. “ Mr Coveney said unilateral action will “make all of this worse”, because it will result in legal action.

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