We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

NI Protocol

Coveney warns UK altering Northern Ireland Protocol will 'deeply damage' relationships

The UK is set to introduce legislation to unilaterally change parts of its Brexit deal with the EU today.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Jun 2022

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney has warned his British counterpart Liz Truss that introducing a Bill to unilaterally alter the Northern Ireland Protocol will breach international law and “deeply damage” relationships.

Coveney spoke by phone with the UK Foreign Secretary this morning at the request of the UK Foreign Office. 

During the call, which lasted 12 minutes, Truss outlined her intention to publish legislation today. 

The Bill will see Boris Johnson’s government move without the consent of the European Union to change the terms of the protocol in a bid to reduce the checks on the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Britain.

This could include allowing ministers to remove all customs processes for goods moving within the United Kingdom and enable the frictionless movement of agri-food goods staying within the UK.

It could also see businesses in Northern Ireland given the ability to choose whether to follow UK or EU regulations, depending on who they are trading with.

The EU has made clear that such steps would represent a breach of international law and could prompt retaliatory action from the bloc.

In a statement following the call, a spokesman for the Minister for Foreign Affairs said: “Mr Coveney said publishing legislation that would breach the UK’s commitments under international law, the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol is deeply damaging to relationships on these islands and between the UK and EU.

Mr Coveney said it marks a particular low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit, especially as Ms Truss has not engaged with negotiations with the EU in any meaningful way since February.

“Mr Coveney repeated that the protocol is the negotiated solution, ratified by Westminster, to the hard Brexit pursued by the UK Government.

“The UK’s unilateral approach is not in the best interest of Northern Ireland and does not have the consent or support of the majority of people or business in Northern Ireland.

“Far from fixing problems, this legislation will create a whole new set of uncertainties and damage relationships,” the statement concluded.

The UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has insisted the new Bill is “lawful” and “correct”.

There is also likely to be some opposition from within Conservative Party ranks, with a number of MPs believed to be unhappy with the legislation.

The Financial Times reported that an internal note had been circulating among those against the Bill, which said: “Breaking international law to rip up the Prime Minister’s own treaty is damaging to everything the UK and Conservatives stand for.”

The protocol ensures there is no hard border on the island of Ireland by Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the EU’s single market for goods. This has created checks on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Unionists in Northern Ireland are vociferously opposed to the international treaty, claiming it has undermined the region’s place within the United Kingdom.

The DUP has blocked the formation of a new power-sharing government at Stormont following last month’s Assembly election in protest.

Lewis said he hopes the Bill will persuade the DUP to support the re-establishment of the Stormont institutions.

He has also said the UK government will set out its legal position on the Bill when the legislation is introduced to Parliament today.

However, he insisted “governments don’t publish details behind advice given to ministers”.

Downing Street has said it will share only “a summary” of the legal advice it received with the public, which has led to accusations of a “cover-up”.

UK Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle said it is “incumbent on ministers” to release the maximum possible legal advice, with “transparency about its origins”.

Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesman Alistair Carmichael said the public deserves “full transparency” over the plan’s legal basis, warning he suspects a “cover-up”.

Additional reporting from Press Association

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel