Coveney wonders if UK government wants ‘severed relations’ with EU

Simon Coveney questioned whether the UK wanted “a break in relations” with the European Union during a late-night Twitter row with Brexit negotiator David Frost.

The Irish Foreign Minister was responding to reports of a speech Lord Frost is set to deliver in Portugal on Tuesday, in which he will make the abolition of the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Northern Ireland a critical question.

The speech will come a day before the EU produces “far-reaching” plans to address issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which prevents a hard border in Ireland but has led to economic barriers between the Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Brussels said it would provide solutions on the flow of chilled meats and medicines to Northern Ireland from the UK, but ruled out removing the ECJ’s oversight role.

Late on Saturday night, Mr Coveney tweeted: “The EU is working seriously to resolve the practical issues related to the implementation of the protocol. are we surprised?

“Real Q: Does UKG really want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in the relationship? “

In response, Lord Frost said: “1. I prefer not to negotiate via twitter, but since @simoncoveney started the process…… the issue of governance and the CJEU is not new.

“We set out our concerns three months ago in our July 21 command document. The problem is, too few people seem to have listened.

“2. We are waiting for @MarosSefcovic’s proposals. We will look at them seriously and positively whatever they say.

“We will discuss it seriously and intensely. But there has to be a significant change to the current situation for there to be a positive outcome. “

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic announced last week that the EU was preparing to come up with “very far-reaching proposals” to address issues that have arisen with the protocol.

Maros Sefcovic at a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast (Brian Lawless / PA)

He said the proposals, which will focus on customs, medicines, animal controls and the representation of Northern Ireland politicians in the EU, carried “political risk” due to threats from the UK government to trigger article 16, which would override much of the protocol. .

“I sincerely hope that it will be seen as such by our British counterparts and that they will constructively engage in our discussion, because I think we have to move on from harsh political rhetoric, threats that we hear all over the place. time, to business that actually solves the problems, ”he said.

But Mr Sefcovic firmly ruled out removing the role of the ECJ.

He said: “To be completely honest, I find it difficult to see how Northern Ireland would remain or retain access to the single market without the oversight of the European Court of Justice.

“Do we want to deprive the people of Northern Ireland of this tremendous opportunity, this huge advantage? Do we want to do this?

Lord Frost will use his speech on Tuesday to insist on abolishing the ECJ.

“The EU must now show the ambition and the will to tackle head-on the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol,” he is expected to tell the diplomatic community.

“The commission was too quick to dismiss governance as a side issue. The reality is the opposite.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost
Brexit Minister Lord Frost responded to Mr Coveney on Twitter (PA)

“The role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and the failure of the UK government to reasonably implement the highly sensitive provisions of the Protocol have created a profound imbalance in the functioning of the Protocol.

“Without new provisions in this area, the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive.”

A UK government source threatened that Britain would trigger Article 16 of the protocol if the EU’s proposals amount to “tinkering around.”

The protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market.

But unionists have been pushing for it to be removed because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.

Lord Frost will also this week share a new legal text with the European Commission to propose the “foundation” of a new protocol to support the Good Friday agreement.

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