Dublin says UK ‘undermining’ search for N.Ireland deal

A British Union flag and an European Union flag are seen flying outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 1, 2016. — Reuters pic
A British Union flag and an European Union flag are seen flying outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 1, 2016. — Reuters pic

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DUBLIN, Oct 11 — Ireland today accused the UK of undermining European efforts to resolve problems with post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, warning patience in Brussels was wearing thin.

The UK government at the weekend said it would heap pressure on the EU to agree to overhaul the Northern Ireland protocol governing the movement of goods to and from the British province.

Brexit minister David Frost will use a speech tomorrow to say the UK wants to remove the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from its role as arbiter of the scheme.

But the speech comes just a day before the European Commission outlines its own proposals to iron out difficulties in its implementation.

“The British government is deciding to... undermine that package before it’s even published,” an exasperated Coveney told RTE state radio.

He said the European Commission team — headed by vice president Maros Sefcovic — is focused on solving trade issues highlighted by London and Belfast.

“The British government seems to be shifting the playing field now away from solving those issues, which they presume they have compromise on,” he said.

“The negotiating strategy that Lord Frost has adopted so far this year has been effectively to wait for the EU to come forward with compromise proposals, to bank those compromise proposals, to say they’re not enough and to ask for more.

“At some point in time the EU will say enough,” he warned. “I think we’re very close to that point now.”

Coveney said he spoke to Sefcovic last night and his opinion was “the exact same”.

He said the EU “can’t move” on the issue of ECJ involvement as the bloc’s single market relies on the court to act as its “final arbiter”.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a landmark referendum in 2016.

When ties were severed at the start of 2021 the Northern Ireland protocol came into effect.

It has kept the British-ruled province inside elements of the EU customs union and single market in order to prevent a hard border with EU-member Ireland.

The border was a former flashpoint in “The Troubles” sectarian conflict between pro-UK unionists and pro-Ireland nationalists, which wound down in 1998.

But the protocol has required new checkpoints at ports in the region to stop the risk of goods coming from England, Scotland and Wales getting into the EU by the back door.

Pro-UK unionists in Northern Ireland say it has created a border in the Irish Sea that undermines the province’s place in the wider UK, and strengthens pro-Irish republicans’ case for a united Ireland. — AFP

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