Coveney says UK ‘rattling of swords’ won’t solve protocol deadlock

The Foreign Secretary, Simon Coveney, said the “saber rumble” and “greatness” at Westminster was not how the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse would be resolved.

“Ireland is disappointed, too,” Coveney said, accusing the UK government of creating “significant tension” with its closest neighbour.

We are now dealing with the consequences of a decision by the British people on our country that has cost us hundreds of millions of euros, and which endangers the peace process and its institutions on the island of Ireland. So, when we focus on frustration, we need to think beyond Westminster.”

Coveney urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday not to introduce new post-Brexit trade laws in the coming days that he said could undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Senior officials in Johnson’s government have warned that they may take unilateral action over rules for goods entering and leaving the North, causing concern in the European Union.

Coveney said London, Dublin and Brussels could find solutions to Northern Ireland’s trade problems, which have angered pro-British politicians there. “But the rattling of swords and splendor in Westminster, escalating the tension, is not the way to do that,” he told Sky News.

“There is no way the EU can make concessions if the UK threatens to take unilateral action to pass domestic legislation that sets aside international obligations under an international treaty, don’t forget that the UK was the primary designer alongside the EU.

“So, yes, I understand the frustrations, and in particular, I understand the frustration in the unionist community. I have spoken to many unionists who want to see real pragmatism and flexibility.

In other words, trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not disrupted in any way that is not strictly necessary. And we can get to the drop zone if we work in partnership. But, you know, the rattling of swords and craftsmanship in Westminster, escalating the tension is not the way to do it.”

He added: “At a time when the world needs the Western world to unite, to work in concert to solve problems together. This is a problem we need to solve together. The last thing Ireland wants, and the last thing the EU needs, is tension with a country the size and influence of the UK.”

stumbling block

He was speaking after Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the British government as the main stumbling block in resolving the Northern Ireland Protocol issue because, unlike the DUP, it had failed to identify a potential solution.

Mr Martin said it seemed to him that the EU no longer trusted Boris Johnson’s government to resolve the difficulties related to the protocol.

“It is not clear what will suffice for the British government. We have some sense of what might work with unionism, but we don’t have that feeling with the British government,” Taoiseach said.

He noted the role played by David Frost, the UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator, in trying to “blow up” a proposed resolution last year.

In response to a tweet on Twitter on Saturday, Frost dismissed Mr Martin’s criticism and said the UK government’s position was ” being ignored or misrepresented”.

Monday meetings

Coveney said he was scheduled to speak on Monday with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “There is an opportunity I hope in the next few days to get this dialogue back on track,” Coveney said, urging London to “not willfully violate international law and create significant tension with our closest neighbors and possibly undermine the peace process by doing so.”

Local elections in Northern Ireland this month have led to a renewed stalemate with pro-union parties opposing the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which outlines trade arrangements, and pro-Ireland parties.

Johnson is due to visit the North on Monday and his office said he would send a “firm message” to political leaders to get their power-sharing institutions back in operation.

Downing Street also said Johnson would say he never proposed abolishing the protocol, which instead needed reform in order to meet his initial goal of protecting the peace agreements in Northern Ireland.

British Business Secretary Kwasi Quarting said London had the right, under the terms of the protocol, to take unilateral action to tackle trade problems, and that London’s priority was political stability.

“It’s clear to me that without changes to the protocol, you won’t get a meeting, you won’t get an executive, and that undermines stability,” Mr Kwarteng told Sky News.

The United States called for the continuation of dialogue between Britain and the European Union to resolve the crisis. Additional reporting by Reuters and the Palestinian Authority

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