Simon Coveney accuses British Government of dismissing EU solutions to protocol

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Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has accused the UK Government of dismissing EU solutions to the Northern Ireland Protocol before they are published.

Simon Coveney also accused the British Government of “shifting the playing field” away from solving issues around the controversial protocol.

He made the comments in response to the Brexit minister’s demand to drop the role of the European Court of Justice from the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Lord Frost is to give a speech on Tuesday, in which he will make removing the role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland a red-line issue.

“Each time that the European Union comes forward with new ideas and new proposals to try and solve problems, they are dismissed before they are released, and that’s happening again this week,” Mr Coveney said.

He said European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and his negotiating team have spent months preparing a package to resolve ongoing issues, which they will publish on Wednesday.

In a post on Twitter at the weekend, Mr Coveney argued that the British Government has created a new “red line” over the ECJ.

Watch: Brexit: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why are the EU and UK still fighting over sausages?

He admitted that his tweet in response to the comments was “not very diplomatic” but said it is “not very diplomatic” of the UK Government to brief the British media.

“David Frost accuses me of raising issues on social media. It’s a bit rich, quite frankly, because he is briefing British media effectively to say ‘Well, the EU can make the changes that they need to make, but actually it’s not enough, we want more’, and now it’s the ECJ is the main issue,” Mr Coveney told RTE Morning Ireland.

“Yes, it’s true that they raised ECJ issues in a command paper in mid-summer, but the truth is, if the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, in terms of the functioning of the EU single market, was an absolute red line for the UK, why did they sign up to an agreement that allowed the ECJ to effectively be the final arbiter for the implementation of the protocol in Northern Ireland?

“This is being seen across the European Union as the same pattern over and over again – the EU tries to solve problems, the UK dismisses the solutions before they’re even published and asks for more.”

Downing Street said changes to the governance arrangements in the protocol are essential if it is to survive.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the UK had signed up to them in “good faith” but the way they were being operated by the EU was unsustainable.

“It was formed in the spirit of compromise in challenging circumstances,” the spokesman said.

“Since then we have seen how the EU is inclined to operate the governance arrangements, issuing infraction proceedings against the UK at the first sign of disagreement.

“These arrangements aren’t sustainable, we need to find a new way of resolving issues that arise between us using mechanisms normal in other international treaties.

“It is unheard of for bilateral agreements being policed by the courts of one of the parties.”

Mr Coveney also said that Northern Ireland and the Republic will suffer the most from ongoing tensions.

Conservative Party Conference
Brexit minister Lord Frost is to give a speech on Tuesday, in which he will make removing the role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland a red-line issue (Peter Byrne/PA)

“I’ve spoken to many Unionists and I’ve spoken to many business people in Northern Ireland, and none of them are raising the issue of the ECJ jurisdiction in terms of the interpretation of the EU single market on the implementation of the protocol,” the Fine Gael minister added.

“They are raising practical issues around freedom to trade without checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“The European Commission is trying to solve those issues as much as they can within the confines of the protocol.

“The British Government seems to be shifting the playing field now away from solving those issues, which they presume they have compromised on, and now opening up this red-line issue of the jurisdiction of the ECJ.”

Watch: Brexit: Ireland's foreign affairs minister accuses UK of 'shifting the playing field' over Northern Ireland Protocol

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