Coveney: Unilateral action could put Brexit deal at risk

The Taoiseach Micheal Martin has called for a fresh round of UK-EU talks on the Protocol rather than the UK taking unilateral action to change the post-Brexit deal.

Mr Martin spoke of his “dismay” at the idea of the British Government unilaterally altering the Protocol while acknowledging that in Boris Johnson’s article in the Belfast Telegraph the Prime Minister accepted that there’s a need for a Protocol.

“He’s not talking about getting rid of the Protocol. But really at the end of the day, the only way this can be resolved is through substantive discussions,” Mr Martin said.

A UK government move to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland Protocol could endanger the wider Brexit trade deal, one of Mr Martin’s ministers has warned.

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney urged Boris Johnson to commit to further engagement with the EU to resolve the Irish Sea trading dispute, rather than breaking international law by acting alone.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to formally announce a plan to legislate on the protocol later today, although a parliamentary bill is not expected to be published at that point.

Mr Coveney’s comments came ahead of Mr Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland yesterday for talks with Stormont’s political leaders in a bid to break a deadlock caused by the protocol.

The EU has made clear that unilateral action from the UK to walk away from the protocol deal would represent a breach of international law.

Mr Coveney, who was in Brussels yesterday, warned that the entire UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement deal – the TCA – could be jeopardised if Mr Johnson takes unilateral action on the protocol.

“This is a time for calmness, it’s a time for dialogue, it’s a time for compromise and partnership between the EU and the UK to solve these outstanding issues,” he told reporters.

“If that is the approach taken by the British government then we can make significant progress and we can make progress quickly to respond to the concerns of both the business community and the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

“That alternative is unilateral action which means tension, rancour, stand-offs, legal challenges and of course calls into question the functioning of the TCA itself,” he said.