Coveney: I understand concerns of unionists

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has stressed he understands the fears of the unionist community about the NI Protocol.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:20 am

Speaking after talks with UUP leader Doug Beattie in Belfast yesterday, Mr Coveney said he was trying to find a compromise to solve the protocol problem which would address unionist concerns.

He said: “I recognise that many in the unionist community have serious reservations in relation to the protocol and its implementation and the consequences for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“We are in the space of trying to address those concerns, where possible, but also being honest about the parameters within which we have to try and address those concerns. But I believe there is a landing zone, if the British government and European Commission work in partnership, intensify discussions as to how we can work through the implementation of the protocol with a level of flexibility that responds to the business community here and to many in the unionist community.”

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Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2022 Doug Beattie speaks to journalists outside the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast prior to his meeting with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney. Photograph by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Mr Beattie said the solution to the protocol is obvious and that the UK government, the EU and the Irish government should stop the “circular conversation” about it.

He said: “We know what the landing zone is here. We need to see immediate moves to remove checks on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and staying here.

“The UK government have been clear on this being the landing zone, the Irish government and EU appear to also agree this to be the landing zone. So, the question has to be asked as to why progress is still at a standstill?”

Referring to his meeting with Mr Coveney, Mr Beattie said: “I was clear when I met Simon Coveney this issue needs to be dealt with or it will continue to dominate.

“That requires seeing a significant change in approach from the EU negotiators.”

The UUP leader continued: “We have provided potential solutions; we also believe that the UK Command Paper offers solutions to the problems we face too. If there is serious will from the EU to resolve the problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol then we need to see movement from them. They had the opportunity pre-election and chose not to ... It is time to see action from them.”

Mr Beattie’s decision to meet Mr Coveney came under fire last night from loyalist activist Jamie Bryson who said he was “bemused” over why any unionist representative “would be engaging with any Irish ministers in a Strand One framework at this time”.