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Irish-UK relations

UK's actions on NI Protocol are 'not the way to behave with your neighbours' - Coveney

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said he hopes the next British prime minister will not break international law.

THE UK’S ACTIONS on the Northern Ireland Protocol are “not the way to behave with your neighbours”, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said.

Simon Coveney said he hopes that the country’s next prime minister will not break international law by trying to subvert the UK’s Brexit agreement with the EU.

Westminister is progressing a Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that would override parts of the Protocol to scrap customs checks between Northern Ireland and Britain, effectively side-stepping the withdrawal agreement between the EU and UK.

The Conservative party is currently electing a new leader and therefore a new prime minister following Boris Johnson’s resignation, with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss vying for the position.

Speaking to reporters in Belfast today, Coveney said he does not have a preference between the two candidates.

“The leadership contest within the Conservative Party is a matter for the Conservative Party,” he said.

“We’ll work with whoever the new leader is, whoever that new prime minister is.

We hope that the new prime minister won’t pursue a strategy of breaking international law and breaking their word to Ireland and the EU.
“We spent many years trying to put together a withdrawal agreement that could manage the disruption of Brexit. We have to respect the decisions around Brexit but I think we’ve also got to respect the decisions that were made to manage the disruption of that decision in the context of the withdrawal agreement.”

He said the EU is open to being flexible but that it cannot accept “a British government’s decision to act unilaterally to legislate domestically to breach international law, to set aside commitments that were made in an international treaty”.

“That is not the way to behave with your neighbours.”

He said the government “would like to see the change in Conservative Party leadership and the change in the prime minister’s office as an opportunity to try to resolve some of these outstanding issues in a different way”.

“It’s no secret that the relationship between the British and Irish governments has not been good in recent years,” he said, attributing it to the British Government’s decision to “move away from partnership and cooperation which in many ways has been the foundation of the success of the peace agreement, which will be 25 years old this year”.

“It’s a real worry for us, if I’m honest, that the British Government over the last number of years has moved away from that partnership approach to try to make politics in Northern Ireland easier for people in terms of finding solutions and compromises on difficult issues,” he said.

“We are learning to live with those new realities but certainly we will try to work with a new prime minister to start to rebuild that sense of partnership and friendship and cooperation.”

The minister is due to meet representatives from Sinn Féin, the UUP, Alliance and the SDLP today but not with the DUP, which has been blocking attempts to form a new Northern Ireland Executive.

Coveney said the lack of meeting should not be “read too much into”, with the party’s leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, in London.

Earlier this month, Maroš Šefčovič, an EU Commissioner and Brexit negotiator, said that the “door remains open” for talks but that the UK must show “political will” to engage with the EU.

However, if the bill was adopted, “of course, in that case, we will be forced to use the measures at our disposal”.

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