FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney has said that Britain is behaving in “an extraordinary way” and said that Boris Johnson’s suggestion the EU would blockade food to Northern Ireland was “spin and not the truth”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Coveney gave a strong defence of the purpose of the Irish protocol, which is in threat of being breached by the UK government’s domestic Internal Market Bill.
Responding a suggestion made yesterday by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the EU could blockade British food to Northern Ireland, Coveney said emphatically:
“There is no blockade proposed, and that is the kind of inflammatory language coming from No 10 which is spin and not the truth.
What is agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Protocol is that there will be limited checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland, because there is an agreement to prevent the need for physical border infrastructure on the island of Ireland.
“That is the whole basis of the Northern Ireland protocol which the UK designed, along with the EU together to protect peace in Northern Ireland… and that the British government is now looking to renege upon, which is why you sense a frustration in my voice.”
Coveney said that Ireland was Britain’s closest neighbour and “arguably, your closest friend”.
This morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and European Council President Charles Michel spoke by phone about the diplomatic crisis that has seem the UK threaten to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which was ratified in January, with a piece of domestic legislation.
Michel said that the leaders of the EU’s 26 other countries are all calling on the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol to be implemented in full by the UK.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that trust had been “damaged” between the EU and UK. She said that the UK needed to withdraw the proposed bill and trade negotiations needed to resume.
The EU would not take action until the Bill had passed through the House of Commons and House of Lords, McEntee said.
Pressure on Johnson mounts
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Johnson from his fellow Tory colleagues to withdraw the legislation in an attempt to save Britain’s diplomatic reputation.
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Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told the Andrew Marr that he would resign if international law is broken through this Bill.
It comes as two former prime ministers, John Major and Tony Blair, have called on Boris Johnson to drop the domestic legislation that threatens to undermine the Withdrawal Agreement in an opinion piece for the Sunday Times.
Major and Blair, the former Conservative and Labour leaders, united to condemn Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill.
“We both opposed Brexit. We both accept it is now happening. But this way of negotiating, with reason cast aside in pursuit of ideology and cavalier bombast posing as serious diplomacy, is irresponsible, wrong in principle and dangerous in practice,” they said.
It raises questions that go far beyond the impact on Ireland, the peace process and negotiations for a trade deal — crucial though they are. It questions the very integrity of our nation.
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