Coveney warns Truss that ‘the UK is breaking international law’
The Foreign Secretary said he had ‘clarified’ to UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss that the government objects to the UK breaking international law.
Simon Coveney made the comment after meeting Ms Truss over continuing concerns over Northern Ireland protocol.
His meeting with his British counterpart comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin traveled to Belfast to meet Northern Ireland party leaders amid the ongoing standoff in Stormont over post-Brexit trade deals.
Following his meeting with Ms Truss, the Minister for Fine Gael tweeted: “I have made clear Ireland’s opposition to the UK breaching international law.
“The UK must resume talks with the EU.”
He said earlier he had urged the UK government to ‘move away’ from threats of unilateral breaches of international law and ‘undermining international relations’.
“The EU remains ready to negotiate pragmatic solutions to outstanding protocol issues through partnership,” Mr Coveney said.
His visit comes following the British government’s controversial decision to act unilaterally to remove parts of the protocol.
Ms Truss has announced plans to legislate overriding parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Treaty she struck with the EU.
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The DUP is currently blocking the restoration of power-sharing institutions in Stormont in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Coveney then met his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Turin.
“I thanked her for her statements and those of the Chancellor, defending international law and the Brexit agreement,” Mr. Coveney said after his meeting.
“The EU is ready to find solutions in response to the concerns of trade unionism in NI but needs a partner around the table.”
The Taoiseach is in Northern Ireland for meetings with party leaders and will host a business delegation.
The UK government has said it is ready to legislate overriding parts of the protocol in the coming weeks unless it can reach a compromise with the EU.
The EU has warned against such a move and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to the Taoiseach yesterday.
She then said that Ireland and the EU were “on the same page” and that international agreements could not be “unilaterally unapplied”.
“The UK must work with us to find common and workable solutions,” she said.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster This Morning, Mr Martin said ‘professional and serious negotiations’ between the UK and EU are the ‘only way’ to resolve the impasse over the protocol.
The “goals keep changing” when it comes to protocol or where the “landing zone” is for legitimate problem-solving, Mr Martin said.
“If you watch the Foreign Secretary’s (Liz Truss) speech this week, it’s getting wider and wider, the range of issues.”
He said the EU has repeatedly said it can move forward on issues and said “this idea, one way or another, the EU is inflexible is just not the truth and does not stack”.
While the talks were suspended ahead of the Northern Ireland election, Mr Martin said it was understood they would resume thereafter.
He said: “In the aftermath of the election, most believed substantive talks would resume between the EU and the UK to resolve protocol issues.
“Those talks haven’t happened, but what has happened is a certain unilateralism on the part of the UK government, saying ‘our way or no way’.”
Decisive action was taken by the EU last October on a range of issues, Mr Martin added.
“Not as a fait accompli but the basis for more discussion.”
He said those talks had never been “exhausted” and said the UK government had not responded in any meaningful way at the time.
Mr Martin said: “Professional and serious negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union are the only way to resolve this issue.
“I believe the current UK government has gone too far unilaterally on issues, whether it’s legacy, whether it’s protocol.
“In my opinion, this is not fully in line with the spirit of the Good Friday agreement, which involves collaboration, teamwork.”
Regarding the refusal of the DUP to enter the government because of the NI protocol, he said that in the democratic world, when people vote to elect a parliament, the first thing that should happen is that the parliament meets.
Yesterday US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the UK would lose a free trade deal with the US if it chose to undermine the terms of the Friday deal Holy.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said that for two and a half years Unionist politicians had voiced their opposition to the protocol and there would have to be changes before there could be progress.
“There is a great price of stable decentralization if we can remove the dark shadow of protocol from our politics.
“The current protocol is incompatible with the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. The Irish government cannot have both,” he said.
Speaking on the way to meeting the Taoiseach, Sinn Féin’s Northern Irish leader Michelle O’Neill said he had an important role to play.
“The Taoiseach has an important role as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and therefore has a stewardship role,” she said.
“At a time when democracy is being denied, at a time when the DUP continues to prevent the facilitation of an executive who can actually start delivering for the public, I think it’s important that he’s here to affirm its role as co-guarantor.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie called this morning’s meeting with the Taoiseach a ‘good meeting’, before adding: ‘We have a good relationship with the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach’s office.
Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Beattie insisted that cargo checks were the crucial issue at stake.
Mr Beattie said: “We all know what the landing zone is here and the landing zone is not a control of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, if these goods remain in Ireland of the North, and we should do the architectural scaffolding around that base and that should be enough to get the government up and running.”
Mr Beattie said he was particularly concerned about the cost of living in Northern Ireland and insisted he was ‘ready to come into government to start dealing with this issue’.
He added that he wanted the DUP to do the same.
“People are hurting and we should try to fix this and I’m ready to come into government to start dealing with this and I would like the DUP to step in and start dealing with this but they certainly represent a part of trade unionism , but certainly not all and I don’t think the majority either,” Beattie said.
Taoiseach meets Johnson
Today’s talks with the Taoiseach follow talks earlier this week between the parties and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Martin said he does not believe a border ballot should take place in the next two years of his government, which will focus on the common island agenda.
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, the Taoiseach said unity was not just about territory, but about reconciling the people of the island of Ireland and “enabling people to break down the barriers of distrust”.
He said the government had engaged in multiple cross-border initiatives and allocated €10m for such projects under the Shared Island Agenda.
Elsewhere, European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič met with the US Congressional Ways and Means Committee.
He said the two are committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
We are also committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast): common solutions implementing the Protocol are the only way to achieve this. pic.twitter.com/VJN07w64rd
— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) May 20, 2022
Additional Report AP