Brexit: UK slammed by Coveney for 'unnecessary tension' with EU
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Mr Coveney launched a scathing attack on the UK as he travelled to Brussels to meet EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to discuss the ongoing Brexit impasse between the UK and the bloc.
Speaking to Politico, he said: “My message to the British government is crystal clear — to act unilaterally to break international law, to not respect the democratic decisions in Northern Ireland would make matters significantly worse, not better, in terms of trying to solve the problems of the protocol.”
Addressing the issues of checks on goods entering the EU from the UK, he added: “Through comprehensive labelling and real-time sharing of supply chain data … I think the EU can move to remove a significant amount of checks on goods that we can show are staying in Northern Ireland and are not a risk to the EU single market.
“Real-time data from reliable state sources in the UK as opposed to private companies is what’s required if the EU is going to move away from a reliance on lots of checks and look to other ways of managing risk.”
He warned that the UK would suffer “a very difficult summer” and “unnecessary divisions and tensions” if the Government decided to unilaterally scrap the Protocol.
He continued: “The last thing the EU needs or wants right now is tension with the UK.
“But if the British Government decides to move forward with unilateral action which will not reflect the majority view in Northern Ireland, that will of course be a huge problem for the EU.”
Boris Johnson has said the UK will have a “necessity to act” if the EU is unwilling to reach a compromise in the deepening crisis over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Prime Minister – who travels to Belfast today for emergency talks with the Northern Ireland parties – said the Government remained open to “genuine dialogue” with Brussels.
But amid fears of a looming trade war, he said that if there was no movement on the EU side, the Government will set out its “next steps” in a statement to Parliament “in the coming days”.
His warning comes amid reports ministers could table emergency legislation as early as this week to override the protocol which requires customs checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
EU leaders have said such a move would violate Britain’s international treaty obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement signed by Mr Johnson and would lead to retaliatory measures.
In the meantime, the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland remain suspended with the DUP refusing to join Sinn Fein in a new Executive or to allow the election of a speaker to the Assembly unless there is fundamental change to the protocol.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson said there was still a “sensible landing spot” where the interests of all sides are protected – including the integrity of the EU single market, which the protocol is designed to maintain.
However, he said that would require movement on the part of the EU.
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“We have been told by the EU that it is impossible to make the changes to the protocol text to actually solve these problems in negotiations – because there is no mandate to do so,” he said .
“We will always keep the door wide open to genuine dialogue. There is without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone’s interests are protected.
“I hope the EU’s position changes. If it does not, there will be a necessity to act.
“The Government has a responsibility to provide assurance that the consumers, citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland are protected in the long-term.
“We will set out a more detailed assessment and next steps to Parliament in the coming days”.
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