“Sabre rattling” and “grandiose” at Westminster is not the way the Northern Ireland protocol deadlock will be resolved, Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney has said.
Accusing the UK government of creating “great tension” with its closest neighbour, Coveney said: “Ireland is frustrated too.
“We are dealing with the consequences now of a decision by the British people in our own country that has cost us hundreds of millions of euros, which is putting the peace process and its institutions on the island of Ireland at risk. So when we focus on frustrations, 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 Johnson administration officials have warned they could take unilateral action on rules for goods going in and out of the North, raising alarm in the European Union.
Coveney said London, Dublin and Brussels could find solutions to trade problems in Northern Ireland that have outraged pro-British politicians there. “But saber rattling and swaggering in Westminster, ratcheting up tension, is not the way to do it,” he told Sky News television.
“There is no way the EU will engage if the UK threatens to take unilateral action to pass domestic legislation that sidesteps international obligations under an international treaty that, let us not forget, the UK was the lead designer alongside. with the EU.
“So, yes, I understand the frustrations and, in particular, I understand the frustrations in the union community. I have spoken to many trade unionists who want to see pragmatism and real flexibility.
“In other words, trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is not interrupted in any way that is not absolutely necessary. And we can reach a landing zone if we work in partnership. But, you know, saber rattling and bombast at Westminster ratcheting up the tension is not the way to do it.”
He added: “At a time when the world needs the Western world to be united, to act in concert to solve problems together. This is a problem that we must solve together. The last thing Ireland wants, the last thing the EU needs, is tension with a country of the size and influence of the UK. ”
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 Democratic Unionist Party, it had failed to establish a possible solution.
Martin said he felt the EU no longer trusted Boris Johnson’s government to resolve difficulties over the protocol.
“It is not very clear what will suffice for the British government. We have an idea of what would work with trade unionism, but we don’t have that idea with the British government,” the Taoiseach said.
He cited the role played by the UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, in trying to “torpedo” a proposed resolution last year.
Responding in a Twitter post on Saturday, Frost dismissed Martin’s criticism, saying the British government’s position was being “ignored or misrepresented”.
Coveney said he was due to speak to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday. “There is an opportunity that I look forward to in the coming days to get this dialogue back on track,” Coveney said, urging London not to “deliberately break international law and create great tension with our closest neighbors and potentially undermine a peace process by to do that”. .”
Local elections in Northern Ireland this month led to a new stalemate with pro-union parties that oppose the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which sets out trade agreements, and pro-Irish parties that support it.
Johnson is scheduled to visit the North on Monday and his office said he would send a “strong message” to political leaders to get their power-sharing institutions back on track.
Downing Street also said Johnson would say he never suggested scrapping the protocol, which instead needed to be reformed to meet its initial goal of protecting Northern Ireland’s peace accords.
British Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said London had the right under the protocol to take unilateral action to deal with trade problems and that the priority for London was political stability.
“It’s clear to me that without changes to the protocol, you’re not going to get an assembly, you’re not going to get an executive, and that undermines stability,” Kwarteng told Sky News.
The United States has called for continued dialogue between Britain and the EU to resolve the standoff. – Additional reporting from Reuters and PA