Irish Daily Mail

Arlene: We will not just go away, Mr Coveney

- By David Young and Michelle Devane

THE North’s First Minister has accused Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of ignoring the views of unionists and assuming they will go away.

Arlene Foster urged Mr Coveney to reflect on remarks in which he said the EU could no longer trust the UK as a negotiatin­g partner.

Mr Coveney was commenting on the UK government’s decision to unilateral­ly extend a grace period limiting red tape associated with the movement of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. Ms Foster singled him out for criticism as she defended London’s move, insisting Brussels was not listening to the concerns of people in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader said the minister was ignoring unionists. ‘He talks about not having a partner you can do business with,’ she said. ‘I have to say he should reflect on that, because he’s not listening to the unionist people of Northern Ireland... He’s ignoring them and thinking that they’ll just go away – well we’ll not go away.’ Ms Foster also reiterated her criticism of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, referring to his use, when Taoiseach, of a newspaper article about a terror attack on a border post as he addressed EU leaders on the reason why checkpoint­s on the island needed to be avoided. ‘What sort of message did that send to people? Was it that terrorism works?’ she asked.

Earlier, Mr Coveney described the UK government’s unilateral decision to extend an exemption period on Irish Sea border checks until October as ‘very frustratin­g’. Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1, Mr Coveney accused the British of breaking the Northern Ireland Protocol and its own commitment­s.

‘This is not the first time this has happened, that they are negotiatin­g with a partner that they simply cannot trust,’ he said. ‘That is why the EU is now looking at legal options and legal actions which effectivel­y means a much more formalised and rigid negotiatio­n process, as opposed to a process of partnershi­p where you try to solve problems together, so this is really unwelcome.’

The first of the light-touch regulation schemes on goods from the rest of the UK moving to Northern Ireland had been due to expire at the end of this month. UK cabinet member David Frost said Britain’s interventi­on should allow time for constructi­ve discussion­s with counterpar­ts in Brussels.

Mr Coveney said he had a ‘blunt’ conversati­on with Mr Frost and Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis on Wednesday after learning of the UK’s actions, and ‘strongly advised them not to do it’. ‘Before Lord Frost had even spoken in detail to [European Commission vicepresid­ent for interinsti­tutional relations and foresight] Maros Sefcovic in his new role, this was announced in a written statement by the British government in Westminste­r,’ he said.

‘To say that is disrespect­ful would be an understate­ment.’

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