Coveney: Brexit talks between EU and UK will continue

Talks between the UK and the EU will continue on the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland despite the resignation of the DUP First Minister, Simon Coveney has said.

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister said the resignation of Paul Givan is “very unwelcome” and means politics in the region cannot now function “as it should and needs to”.

The move is part of the DUP’s escalating protest strategy against the NI Protocol.

Mr Coveney yesterday said talks will continue between UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic aimed at reducing the red tape associated with the protocol.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney

“To be fair to the DUP, they’ve been saying for some time, that if they didn’t get what they were asking for in relation to the protocol that they would do this. And now they’ve gone ahead and done it. But it’s certainly very unwelcome.

“It doesn’t change much actually, in the context of the negotiations that are going on between Liz Truss and Maros Sefcovic – the two key negotiators who are trying to find common ground on how we implement the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that everybody can accept.

“Those discussions and negotiations continue and were continuing yesterday.”

Mr Coveney was also critical of the decision of DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots to unilaterally order a halt to agri-food checks at Northern Ireland ports, as required under the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

“I think it’s enormously frustrating for the other parties, who may have very different perspectives on things and don’t agree sometimes, but they agree on one thing, that politicians have an obligation to work together to solve problems in Northern Ireland and the DUP have decided to isolate themselves from that thinking,” Mr Coveney told RTE radio.

It was put to Mr Coveney that DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson does not believe that a workable compromise on the NI Protocol can be agreed by the end of February.

“How does he know that, if he doesn’t give it a chance?” Mr Coveney answered. “The point here is people are working night and day to respond to legitimate unionists concerns and anxieties.

“There’s no perfect solution here because Brexit causes problems and change. But the protocol was what was agreed between the UK and the EU and the Irish government were very involved in that, as indeed were parties in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“It’s been very clear to everybody for a number of weeks, that Maros Sefcovic and Liz Truss were effectively setting the end of February as a key moment in time to actually agree a number of compromises that could take some of the heat out of the debate around the implementation of the protocol.

“And while we’re all working on that, to try and find a way forward and to build trust between the negotiating teams, the DUP decided to pull the plug on the Executive as a protest. So you know, the negotiations will continue but unfortunately, politics in Northern Ireland’s now won’t in the way that it should.”