Simon Coveney warns Britain’s bid to abandon the Northern Ireland Protocol ‘will cause a lot more problems’ than it will solve


Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney has warned Britain’s unilateral action on the Northern Ireland protocol will “cause a lot more problems” than it will solve.

K’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced national legislation which, if passed, would overwrite elements of the Brexit treaty with the European Union.

It will give explicit powers to give effect to a new, revised Northern Ireland protocol.

The announcement in Westminster came despite warnings from Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney that such a move would breach an international treaty.

The way to tackle “outstanding Brexit issues” such as the Northern Ireland protocol was “through cooperation, dialogue, negotiation and partnership”, he said.

“The EU is up for this partnership,” he added, saying he believed there was a landing zone available to address some of the “legitimate concerns” that many community members Unionist had.

“We can get this landing zone through cooperation and partnership – if we have a partner in the UK government.”

Earlier today, Ms Truss told the House of Commons that the UK was offering a ‘comprehensive and reasonable’ solution to the problems – which required changes to the protocol itself.

“Our preference remains a negotiated solution with the EU and alongside the introduction of the legislation we remain open to talks,” she said – referring to an invitation from the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Maroš Šefčovič, to meet in London.

But the announcement is significant because it depicts the UK acting unilaterally to abandon large parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

Ms Truss said ‘it’s not about abandoning the protocol – our aim is to achieve the objectives of the protocol’, citing the common travel space, the single electricity market and cooperation North -South.

Introducing the concept of the new legislation, Ms Truss warned: “The basis for power sharing remains strong…but the Belfast deal remains under strain.”

She claimed that the Northern Ireland Protocol does not have the support of part of the Northern Ireland community, but that all northern parties have agreed that changes are needed.

She said that as the economy emerged from the Covid pandemic, people in the North were unable to enjoy the same benefits as other parts of the UK, due to tax rules for example.

Ms Truss proposes a ‘green channel’ for goods, with controls only applying to those who can cross the border.

“He will continue to ensure there are no hard borders on the island of Ireland,” she said, adding that she would post more details in the coming weeks.

She said the UK government would establish its legal basis “in due course” after being warned by shadow foreign affairs spokesperson Stephen Doughty that the move would damage the UK’s reputation and that “the rest of the world is watching us”. The decision was “deeply troubling”, he said.

Ms Truss explained how Britain would introduce a Trusted Trader scheme so traders could roam unchecked, but there would be ‘tough penalties’ for those who abuse the system – without explaining how abuse would be detected unchecked.

“We need more flexibility from the EU. The protocol needs to be changed,” Ms. Truss said.

Tax rules mean citizens of Northern Ireland cannot fully enjoy the same benefits as the rest of the UK, such as reduced VAT on solar panels, Ms Truss said, while SPS rules mean producers face onerous restrictions, including battery certification in order to sell animal feed in Northern Ireland stores, she said.

“These practical issues have contributed to the perception that the East-West relationship has been undermined.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the statement was welcome and “an important step” that could restore power sharing.

“We hope to see a bill to address these issues in weeks and months,” he said. “We want to see the Irish Sea border removed, to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK single market.”

But Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said unilateral action is not the way to solve the problems raised by international treaties.

The protocol, which was negotiated as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, is designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Britain leaves the EU.

The terms effectively keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market and create a hard border along the Irish Sea.

But since the deal was signed there have been complaints from the UK that Brussels has insisted on too strict checks on goods traveling between Britain and Northern Ireland, disrupting trade and creates community tensions.

Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman said the EU’s proposals for administering the protocol are “very bureaucratic and quite unnecessary” given that UK food standards are “equivalent or better” than those set by Brussels.

The former Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the bloc suggests the same background checks, including veterinary checks, required for the Republic of Ireland are also required to send goods from other parts of the UK to Northern Ireland.

“Incidentally, that means every piece of butter in a sandwich has to have an EU veterinary certificate, so it’s very bureaucratic and quite unnecessary,” he said.

The British government is advocating for the establishment of “green lanes” allowing goods traveling between GB and NI and not intended to go to the Republic of Ireland not to be subject to the same level of control as those entering the territory of Ireland. the EU.

The dispute over the treaty has created a stalemate in efforts to form a Stormont administration in Belfast, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join an executive unless its concerns over the arrangements are resolved.

A majority of MPs in the newly elected Stormont Assembly represent parties that support keeping the protocol, with many saying the arrangement offers the region some protection against some of the negative economic consequences of Brexit.

They also point out that unhindered access for traders from Northern Ireland to sell in the EU single market is a key benefit of the protocol.

A UK Foreign Office source said Ms Truss’ priority was to deliver on the Good Friday Agreement and denied she was trying to “fight” with Brussels.

The European Commission has urged Britain to start talks on the bloc’s proposals on the protocol as “a much better route than engaging unilaterally”.

Daniel Ferrie, a spokesperson for the commission, told reporters in Brussels that the EU package offered during negotiations in October was “not a ‘take it or leave it’ offer”.

“Vice President (Maros Sefcovic) himself said in his statement on Thursday that we had made it clear that there was still potential to be explored in our proposals,” he said.


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