Thursday 4 March 2021 10:05 am

Brexit: EU 'simply can’t trust' Britain as tensions rise over Northern Irish protocol

The EU will see Britain as an untrustworthy partner after its decision to alter the Northern Irish Brexit arrangement, Ireland’s foreign minister said this morning.

Simon Coveney claimed it was not the first time the EU have seen warning signs in Britain’s dealings, after the move sparked accusations of a breach of trust.

The comments came after the UK vowed to extend grace periods for Irish Sea border checks, a move the EU said was a breach of international law.

“To say that is disrespectful, would be an understatement,” Coveney said.

The EU’s finance chief joined Ireland in condemning Britain, raising questions over whether the country can be trusted in future trade negotiations.

“Our experience has not been an easy one to put it mildly,” Mairead McGuinness said.

Good Friday Agreement

The saga commenced after Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups told Boris Johnson they would temporarily withdraw support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the deal.

The group pledged “peaceful and democratic” opposition but the move sends a stark warning to the prime minister.

The Good Friday Agreement ended three decades of violence between nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and loyalists committed to staying part of the UK.

Peace deal commitment ‘breached’

Loyalists said they were concerned about the disruption to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, withdrawing their support for the Belfast Agreement.

They said they would not return to the deal until their rights were restored and Northern Irish Protocol was amended.

The group’s core disagreement was that Britain, Ireland and the EU had breached their commitment to the 1998 peace deal within the protocol.

Ireland’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill also slammed the move, labelling it as an attempt to override what has already been agreed.

Boris Johnson warned

In a letter to Boris Johnson, quoted by the Belfast Telegraph, loyalists said: “Please do not under-estimate the strength of feeling on this issue right across the unionist family.

“If you or the EU is not prepared to honour the entirety of the agreement then you will be responsible for the permanent destruction of the agreement.”

Speaking in the Commons yesterday afternoon, Boris Johnson told MPs that Northern Ireland’s position within the UK internal market was “rock solid and guaranteed”.

He added that the government would underscore that with the operational “easing” to protect food supplies, pending further discussions with the EU.