The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, said this afternoon that threats from the UK Government to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol “have gone down really badly” with the EU.
Speaking during a visit to Belfast, where he is meeting political leaders, Coveney said: “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 and Northern Ireland is through partnership, through compromise and through working these issues out together in a way that both sides can move on.”
Coveney said: “The briefing that we have seen of the British media coming from Foreign Secretary (Liz) Truss and others has gone down really badly across the European Union who believe that the Commission has been showing a willingness to compromise, wants ongoing technical discussion to work out solutions and common ground.
“What they are hearing and seeing from London is a rejection of that approach, towards a breach of international law and setting aside elements of a treaty which the British Government was central to putting in place with the EU.
“That hasn’t gone down well and I hope that decision makers in Westminster will reflect on that.”
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told City A.M.: “Our focus has been, and will continue to be, preserving peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
“No decisions have yet been taken on the way forward however the situation is now very serious.
“We have always been clear that action will be taken to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement if solutions cannot be found to fix the Protocol.”
Boris Johnson in Sweden
Coveney’s comments came only an hour after Boris Johnson said the Northern Ireland Protocol fails to command cross-community support in Northern Ireland and “we need to sort it out”.
At a press conference alongside Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson at her Harpsund country retreat, Mr Johnson said: “The most important agreement is the 25-year-old Belfast Good Friday agreement.
“That is crucial for the stability of our country of the UK, of Northern Ireland.
“And it’s got to be that means that things have got to command cross-community support.
“Plainly the Northern Ireland protocol fails to do that and we need to sort it out.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Communities Secretary Michael Gove has said the UK will continue to negotiate with the EU to resolve differences over the Northern Ireland Protocol but said “no option is off the table”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has made clear her frustration at the lack of progress in talks with Brussels amid reports the UK could unilaterally abandon the protocol.
Asked on BBC Breakfast if the Government was going to “tear up” the agreement, Mr Gove said: “No. We are going to negotiate with the EU in order to get the best possible outcome for the people of Northern Ireland, but no option is off the table.
“Liz Truss will be meeting Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president, tomorrow. They have a good relationship. They will try to make progress tomorrow. I know that both of them are fully committed to making sure we resolve some very difficult issues that have arisen.
“You would expect a UK Government when it is thinking about the security of the entire United Kingdom to say that there is no option that is off the table and that is absolutely right.”