Dublin urges UK to break deadlock with EU over Northern Ireland


Stalled negotiations between Britain and Brussels on post-Brexit trade deals for Northern Ireland are not set to drag on last February and it is time for the UK to make concessions, the minister said Irish Foreign Minister.

“We all know that we have to put an end to this discussion and this negotiation,” Simon Coveney told the Financial Times in an interview, highlighting the record of the new UK chief Brexit negotiator, the Minister for Brexit. Foreign Affairs Liz Truss, in concluding trade agreements.

“We have elections in Northern Ireland in May. These elections will really start from the end of February. So it can’t drift for months, ”he said.

Truss, who took over the Brexit portfolio this month after Lord David Frost’s surprise resignation, is expected to visit Northern Ireland early next month but has yet to report any changes in the UK’s position .

Since Brexit, Northern Ireland has remained in the EU’s single goods market because the alternative – a strict customs border on the island – was ruled out as a threat to the 1998 peace deal. which ended three decades of sectarian conflict known as the Troubles.

Rather, however, that meant the establishment of customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland. These were spelled out in the part of the Brexit deal known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is being renegotiated.

London has secured concessions from Brussels which EU Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic said would cut customs and health checks by 80% on British goods destined for Northern Ireland. The EU has also changed its legislation to ensure that the UK region can continue to receive medicines from Britain. But London wants more.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson threatened to remove his Democratic Unionist Party from the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive in January unless the Irish Sea border is removed. He argues that the protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s status within the UK.

Brexit talks shuttled between London and Brussels for weeks without progress, before being put on hold over Christmas. If they don’t conclude by February, “the elections in Northern Ireland will become a referendum on protocol,” Coveney said.

“I think January and February is really the timeframe we’re working on, to try to end these discussions. And there is no reason why this should not happen. Because there is nothing new on the table here.

Truss reiterated that Britain was ready to suspend parts of the protocol under Article 16 – a move Coveney said would “backfire” and call into question the entire post trade deal. -Brexit of UK with EU.

On a sticking point, Truss has already reiterated the UK’s latest position that he does not want the European Court of Justice to be “the final arbiter of disputes”. This form of words would keep him out of the protocol while still allowing him to speak out on questions of EU law.

The EU insists that as Northern Ireland is part of the single market for goods, the UK must accept ultimate control by the ECJ.

“I don’t see how the EU can agree to take away a role for the ECJ in interpreting EU rules and regulations,” Coveney said.

Ireland is not directly involved in the negotiations between the EU and the UK, but its geographic, historical and trade ties put it at the forefront of Brexit. The two countries are also close allies of the United States, and Coveney has said he hopes President Joe Biden will visit Ireland in 2022.

Regarding the links with London, he said: “I see my role as an outspoken friend. . . I am not going to tell the British government what it wants to hear, ”he said. “I think my role should be to explore realistic potential solutions.”

One such non-Brexit issue is the UK’s controversial plan to extend an amnesty for violent crimes committed during the unrest, with legislation set to be passed in early January.

Coveney said such a move would represent the first time since the Good Friday deal that a party would take a unilateral decision on “something as important as the legacy.”

As with the protocol, Ireland “was trying to return to a partnership approach,” he added.

“Let the British government decide to move forward on the basis of a policy that no one supports in Northern Ireland. . . and for the Irish government to be very clear, both in private and in public, that we cannot support, would be a big mistake, ”Coveney said.


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