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Simon Coveney

Coveney says calls to scrap Northern Ireland protocol are unrealistic

Coveney did admit however that there have been issues with the implementation of the protocol.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Feb 2021

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney has said that calls by unionists to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol five months into its implementation are not realistic.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, the Minister said that it wouldn’t be possible to scrap the protocol and that there are now legal requirements for its implementation stemming from the EU/UK trade deal.

“Calls to scrap the protocol because there are some issues in terms of implementation just isn’t realistic and I’ve tried to be as honest about that as I can this week,” said Coveney.

“You cannot simply scrap an element of an international treaty five weeks into its implementation, because you don’t like elements of it.”

While Coveney did admit there have been issues with its implementation in January, he says that the protocol is working. 

He cited the number of goods arriving into Northern Irish ports from Britain, saying that they are “quite similar, in volume terms, to this time last year”.

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald said that Brexiteers would need to get used to the trading borders between the UK and Northern Ireland and that they were a consequence of leaving the EU.

Speaking to Sky News, McDonald said that the focus should turn to fixing the implementation issues, rather than entirely ditching the protocol.

“For us on the island of Ireland, there is the immediate need to have the protocol work to protect Irish jobs and livelihoods, to secure the infrastructure of our peace process,” said McDonald.

Powersharing

It comes as SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has expressed concerns that powersharing in the Northern Ireland executive could be under threat if unionists continue to look for the protocol to be scrapped.

Speaking to RTÉ, he called on the DUP to work with other parties in Stormont to find solutions to the problems that are linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“So come and work with us, let’s get together, the spirit of powersharing is what’s important right now, working in partnership to deal with the problems,” said Eastwood.

“We’re seeing stability being rocked this week in a number of different ways and I think as political leaders we all have a responsibility, first and foremost, to be honest with our people and tell them what the scenario is, what the context is, why we have trading barriers and also come together to work through it, because the alternative is just not worth contemplating.”

Grace periods

Coveney also said that the government is open to some modest extensions on various grace periods for checks on goods entering Northern Ireland.

“We need to try to find accommodation for each other here, that can reduce tensions in Northern Ireland, can respond to legitimate concerns, regardless of who’s raising them and so that we can show that the protocol can be flexible when needed.

However, Coveney did reiterate that this would not allow for a renegotiation of the Northern Ireland protocol and that the flexibilities within should be used instead.

With reporting by Press Association

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