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Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney Sam Boal via Rolling News

Coveney: NI Protocol legislation may be 'put off' following Johnson's resignation

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said the issue may not be debated until after parliament’s recess.

ADVANCING THE NORTHERN Ireland Protocol legislation may be “put off” for the foreseeable future in the wake of Boris Johnson’s resignation, Minister for Foreign Affairs Coveney has said.

Coveney said that he has been notified that some of the legislation planned to be discussed by the UK government next week, including the Protocol, may be postponed until after the parliament’s summer recess

He also said that he suspects the UK political term will end next week, slightly earlier than planned, and that many of the core issues faced by the British government will not be tackled until a new Prime Minister has been appointed.

This process could take up to six week, he said.

The minister’s comments follow a tumultuous 72 hours in British politics that saw the resignation of over 50 government members and culminated in the resignation of outgoing Conservative leader Boris Johnson.  

Minister Coveney, who met with Johnson on numerous occasions including throughout the former PM’s time as UK Foreign Secretary, described the political situation in Britain as an “extraordinary implosion” in leadership.

When asked if the Northern Ireland Protocol will fall down the agenda of the British Parliament, Minister Coveney said: “we will have to wait and see”.

“The truth is not much will happen in the context of big policy decisions between now and when there’s a new British Prime Minister,” he told RTÉ’s Today With Claire Byrne.

I’m told that some of the legislation planned for next week, including the Protocol legislation, may be put off now, because other issues need to be debated for obvious reasons by parliament before they break up for the recess.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also spoke about how the ongoing Tory leadership competition may impact relations between the UK and Ireland, as well as the rest of Europe, moving forward.

He said that there is a “rump” of politicians within the Conservative party who want tension between the UK government and the EU and that these relations will play a large role in the leadership contest.

“I think leadership change in a party often changes a lot of things,” he said.

“Let’s wait and see what this leadership contest is about; Whether Brexit remains central to everything, as it has done under Boris Johnson’s leadership, or whether the debate broadens out in British politics to a whole series of other pressures that Britain faces now.”

Coveney also welcomed the change in British leadership as an opportunity for Ireland and the UK to achieve compromise.

“There is a landing zone if people want to find it… My job is to try to build a personal relationship [with the UK that hopefully can] result in us talking about pragmatic compromise, the two governments working together to try to try to end this deadlock in Northern Ireland… of course, I can’t do that on my own.”

“This ultimately needs to be a negotiated solution between the EU and the UK government. But certainly, we can do some of the groundwork,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Toaiseach Micheál Martin in a speech responding to Johnson’s resignation yesterday.

Martin is currently in Guernsey at the British-Irish Council summit where he said he regretted that the EU-UK partnership in responding to the war on Ukraine was not replicated on Northern Ireland issues.

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