Brussels could rip up the post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal if Boris Johnson suspends the Northern Ireland Protocol, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has warned.
This would result in an effective no-deal Brexit as trade barriers would be immediately erected between the UK and the EU.
Coveney today said the Brexit Withdrawal agreement, which contains the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the UK-EU trade deal are contingent on each other and only work if both are fully implemented.
He claimed Johnson was rolling the green to trigger Article 16 and suspend the protocol before the end of the year, warning that the EU would respond in a “very serious way” if this happens.
Negotiations over the post-Brexit treaty continue to drag on, with the UK still threatening to trigger Article 16 and suspend the protocol if Brussels does not agree to rewrite it entirely.
Both sides now recognise that the way the deal is being implemented is causing economic and political friction in Northern Ireland.
The UK wants the vast majority of border checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to be removed and for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to lose its role as overseer of the treaty.
Brussels has offered to reduce checks significantly, particularly on agricultural goods and medicines, but refuses to rewrite it or remove the ECJ from its role.
Cabinet Office minister Lord David Frost said earlier this week that the EU had “destroyed cross-community consent” in Northern Ireland with an “overly strict” implementation of the protocol.
Coveney said Brussels was in “solutions mode” and could go a “little further” on reducing checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, but warned there were limits to that flexibility.
“I believe that if the British government essentially refuses to implement the protocol, even with the extraordinary flexibilities that are now on offer, and instead looks to set it aside then I think the EU will respond in a very serious way to that,” he told RTE Radio One.
“It means that the Trade and Co-operation Agreement that was agreed between the British government and the EU was contingent on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the protocol.
“One is contingent on the other. So if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU.”