Solutions can be found to issues around NI Protocol says Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney

Solutions can be found to the outstanding issues around trade in Northern Ireland post-Brexit, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister said.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 9:42 pm
Simon Coveney speaking at Stormont in 2019.

Solutions can be found to the outstanding issues around trade in Northern Ireland post-Brexit, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister said.

Simon Coveney said finding a way forward within the framework of the Northern Ireland Protocol will foster stability in Northern Ireland when it is “needed now more than ever”.

“The Protocol is the only solution to the problems created by Brexit for the island of Ireland and we firmly support ongoing contacts between EU and UK on its implementation,” Mr Coveney told an Irish parliamentary committee.

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He said the Irish Government had listened to the concerns voiced about some aspects about how the Protocol operates.

“The EU is doing everything it possibly can to reflect these concerns and working with the UK to implement the Protocol in a way that impacts as little as possible on people’s everyday lives and on trade,” he added.

“I firmly believe that acting together within the framework of the Protocol, the EU and UK can find solutions to the outstanding issues.

“Finding a sustainable and collaborative way forward is ultimately to the benefit of all communities in NI and to the EU and UK as a whole.

“It will also foster stability that given recent very concerning disturbances in Northern Ireland is needed now more than ever.”

No 10 said today that Boris Johnson has spoken to his Irish counterpart to discuss the “importance of continued good relations between the UK and Ireland” after Brexit.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to the Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin this evening.

“They updated one another on the Covid situation and progress on vaccine rollouts in their countries. They agreed to continue working together to fight the pandemic and to consider ways they may support each other.

“They discussed Northern Ireland and the importance of continued good relations between the UK and Ireland to the peace process.

“They committed to strengthening the partnership further and finding new ways to cooperate on areas like trade and science.

“The Prime Minister and Taoiseach looked forward to meeting in person as soon as possible.”

Michel Barnier, who led the European Union’s negotiations with the UK, said today that Brexit is a mark of failure.

He told MEPs: “This is a divorce. It’s a warning, Brexit, and it’s a failure – a failure of the European Union.

“And we have to learn lessons from it as politicians here in the European Parliament, in council, in the Commission, in all of the capitals.

“Why did 52% of the British vote against Europe? There are reasons for that – social anger and tension which existed in many regions in the UK but also in many regions of the EU.

“Our duty is to listen and understand the feelings of the people.”

He added that the anger felt by citizens “shouldn’t be confused with populism” and the EU should do “everything to respond to that”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs today there has been “some progress” on resolving the issues around Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.

The European Commission president gave a positive assessment of the work being carried out by the EU’s Maros Sefcovic and the UK’s Lord Frost.

She said: “In recent days and weeks, we have seen a new, constructive dynamic and we will continue to work closely with the UK to find constructive solutions that respect what was agreed.

“The next step is to mutually agree on compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones.”

She added: “We need solutions, not soundbites, if we are to make the protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

But she acknowledged that some MEPs would be reluctant to approve the Brexit trade deal because of the UK’s unilateral decision not to fully implement parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

She said the trade deal is only as good as its “implementation and enforcement in practice”.

She added: “I share the concerns you have on unilateral actions by the United Kingdom since the agreement came into provisional application.

“We have obviously seen a number of issues arise since then. Some were to be expected, others are teething issues, and many are the consequence of the type of Brexit the UK chose.

“But, regardless of the reasons, we need to focus on joint solutions. Unilateral decisions will get us nowhere.”

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