Great Britain

Ireland turns screw on Britain: Simon Coveney warns EU 'watching' UK in Brexit deal row

Northern Ireland has been 'stitched up' by EU says Bridgen

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, has admitted there is “pressure” to find a breakthrough on the Northern Ireland Protocol by next month. Mr Coveney warned Loyalist marching season is fast approaching and fears further political unrest if there is no resolution. Belfast has been the scene of increased political tension in recent months, including rioting on the streets in Loyalist areas.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and ties Belfast to the EU regulatory framework.

It has been condemned by Unionists, who argue the mechanism undermines the UK and threatens the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Coveney raised the alarm bell following a meeting with Maros Sefcovic, the joint chair of the EU-UK Joint Committee in charge of implementing the protocol.

He said: “There are various ideas being discussed, but it isn't a straightforward issue.

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney has called for a solution to be found for the Northern Ireland Protocol (Image: GETTY)

Northern Ireland

The protocol has disrupted trade in Northern Ireland (Image: GETTY)

“A lot of countries in the EU are watching how the Commission resolves this because the most important issue for the EU is that we protect the integrity of our own Single Market."

He added: "The last thing we want to see is to be moving into a marching season this summer, without Covid restrictions keeping people in their homes, without many of these issues resolved politically.

“So, I think there is a pressure that we find a way to come up with solutions by some point in June, and I think the Commission is very much aware of that and I'm sure the British government is too.”

Mr Coveney acknowledged it was not his place to set a hard deadline but offered to work with both sides.

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Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney warned of further political unrest (Image: GETTY)

He added: “It's not for me as an Irish minister to be setting deadlines.

“My role in this is to work as part of the EU, but also to reach out to colleagues in London as well, and of course in Belfast, to find a sensible, pragmatic way forward here that everyone can live with."

The protocol has been in part-operation since January and bounds Northern Ireland to the EU single market and customs union.

The increased red tape has resulted in delays at ports and the UK Government took the unilateral decision to extend grace periods on some checks until October.

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David Frost and Michel Barnier

David Frost and Michel Barnier led Brexit negotiations (Image: GETTY)

The EU has since called for the protocol to be implemented in full and started legal action.

The European Commission has previously put forward a so-called veterinary agreement, which would tie the UK to EU food safety and animal health rules – something Westminster has knocked back.

Britain has since called for an “equivalence” agreement, which would measure outcomes rather than align to strict EU standards.

Mr Coveney told RTE: "The British position has been clear for many months that they would like to see equivalence of standards recognised in the UK.

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Brexit

Five key moments that led to Brexit (Image: EXPRESS)

“And the EU's position is equally firm and clear that they can't do that legally without setting a precedent for a whole load of other third countries, that the EU has a relationship with, so instead what they want is alignment with EU rules on veterinary standards.”

Last week, Mr Coveney held talks with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis in Dublin and both sides reaffirmed commitments to upholding the Good Friday Agreement.

The EU-UK Joint Committee is set to hold further talks on the protocol in the first week of June.

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