The EU fears that Boris Johnson wants to “dismantle” the Northern Ireland protocol, the Irish Foreign Minister said, as relations between Brussels and London deteriorated again after statements by Brexit Minister David Frost in the last 24 hours.
Simon Coveney told RTÉ on Sunday that EU leaders feared the worst after what he felt was a provocative article written by Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, in the Irish Times on Saturday.
“Many in the EU are interpreting the UK’s response as essentially saying: ‘Look, concessions don’t matter. What is required now is to dismantle elements of the protocol piece by piece, ‘”he said, adding. “That is going to cause big problems.”
Coveney expressed his bewilderment at the article, which came just days after Brussels and London agreed to a three-month hiatus in the trade dispute over the sale of British sausages in Northern Ireland.
In a sign of the continuing fragility of EU-UK relations, Coveney complained that London has barely recognized the EU’s flexibility in the protocol, including a commitment to remove barriers to the supply of medicines to Ireland from the North. The article says: “No new cancer drugs can be licensed for Northern Ireland.”
Coveney told RTÉ This week the article was “a very strange way to make friends and build partnerships”, two days after the EU and the UK agreed to extend the deadline for the sale of chilled sausages and meats.
In the article, Frost and Lewis say that Wednesday’s agreement was “welcome” but that it addressed “only a small part of the underlying problem”, stating that the “process to resolve all these difficulties” was “creating a series of ongoing crises. while we stumble from one term to another ”.
Coveney suggested that this was another attempt to put the blame on the EU door, as it was the UK that requested a three-month delay.
He said: “Making statements like the EU is taking ‘a theological approach frozen in time that does not address the reality that exists’, an exact quote from that article, is essentially blaming the EU for not being able to implement the protocol. .
“The truth here is that the only side that has shown flexibility… has been the EU. The challenge here is that both parties must take responsibility and ownership. “
Coveney also accused the UK of stirring up political sensitivity in Northern Ireland.
“The British government’s contribution does not help [peace and stability], because every time Lord Frost or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland say that the protocol is not sustainable, it reinforces in the minds of many people concerned and frustrated by the protocol, that the protocol must change.
“Instead, what needs to happen here is that the EU and the UK should work in partnership,” Coveney said.
The article states that the UK needs “a constructive and ambitious debate with the EU that addresses the current reality.” He says “opposition is growing” against the protocol in Northern Ireland, which “is not a stable base for the future.”
Ministers say “consent is also wearing thin as there is a sense that current arrangements could corrode the link between NI and the rest of the UK,” noting that in 2018 Britain’s internal trade to Northern Ireland was ” five times “greater than the imports of the Republic of Ireland.
In separate comments in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Frost said it was reasonable to suggest that the protocol be reinstated now that the implications of the protocol on the ground were known, with particular opposition in the unionist and loyalist communities.
“It just doesn’t seem unreasonable for us to say: these arrangements are not working the way we both think. Look at the effects and the way it is developing; we really should take another look at how it’s happening. “
Downing Street has been contacted for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism