Stormont leaders split over Coveney’s slating of UK
STORMONT leaders have clashed over claims by Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney the UK Government can’t be trusted on Brexit.
Mr Coveney yesterday lashed out at London’s unilateral decision to extend a grace period on border checks for goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland until October.
“This is not the first time this has happened, that they (the EU) are negotiating with a partner that they simply cannot trust,” he told RTE.
The European Commission is considering legal action against the UK. First Minister Arlene Foster accused Mr Coveney of “ignoring” unionist concerns, while Deputy First Minister Michelle O’neill said London had acted in “bad faith”.
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said the move had been taken to avoid empty supermarket shelves, and that it was intended to strengthen the NI Protocol rather than undermine it. Mrs Foster said: “If the UK Government hadn’t taken action that would have caused untold difficulties for our ports, and indeed, you will have heard from the chief vet today that (it) would have led to up to 36,000 checks in relation to the port of Larne.
“He (Mr Coveney) should reflect on that because he’s not listening to the unionist people of Northern Ireland, the entirety of unionist people of Northern Ireland. He’s ignoring them and thinking that they’ll just go away. Well, we’ll not go away and we need to be listened to in relation to our very deep concerns about trade diversion, which of course is covered in the protocol as well.”
Mrs O’neill said: “The British Government acted in bad faith and they have demonstrated by their very deed that they are untrustworthy, that they’re not reliable, that they’re not true to their word when it comes to a negotiation.
“That’s form which the British Government have demonstrated time and time again.”
Defending the move, Mr Lewis said if the decision hadn’t been taken “there was a very real risk that, actually, what we’ve had in a few weeks would have been back to the issues with empty shelves”.
Downing Street rejected Mr Coveney’s comments. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have worked closely with the EU throughout the Brexit period, not just in terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol but with regards to the TCA (trade and co-operation agreement) that we agreed at Christmastime.
“We continue to work closely with them through the Joint Committee process and remain committed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, but we want to address those areas where there are issues that have arisen.”