Simon Coveney warns that there is a time limit to fix NI Protocol issues
EU negotiations with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol may end at the end of the year if no progress is being made, Simon Coveney has warned.
The Irish foreign minister told the PA news agency that there is only a finite “window” within which the EU is willing to find solutions to the problems caused by the post-Brexit agreement in place for Northern Ireland.
The EU and UK are set for an intense round of negotiations in the coming weeks after European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic last week unveiled a range of proposals aimed at cutting the red tape the protocol has imposed on moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
However, the plan did not address a key UK demand – the removal of the oversight function of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the operation of the protocol.
Mr Coveney, speaking from Wales where he attended the inaugural Wales-Ireland Forum yesterday, said he believed a deal was possible, but negotiations could not continue forever.
“I think EU has shown a real appetite for compromise, and they have consciously avoided creating tension. I can’t say the same in terms of the British government’s approach,” he said.
“I think that window is on offer now to the British government if they want to use it to find a way of implementing the protocol in a way that responds to the vast majority of the issues and problems that have been raised.
“It’s up to the UK government, I think, to take that window and we’ll have to wait and see how that progresses in the next few weeks.
“I can’t tell you when the EU will decide that that approach is getting us nowhere if there’s no agreement.
“But certainly I think there’s a window between now and late December, when the EU, I think, will be open to continuing dialogue and trying to find a way of making this work.”
Mr Coveney said he didn’t believe there was an appetite in the EU to rewrite an international agreement.
He added that frustrations remain about the fact the role of the ECJ has become a red line.
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