Any Brexit deal could not be ratified if UK breaches NI agreement – Coveney

Any Brexit deal could not be ratified if UK breaches NI agreement – Coveney


Any EU-UK trade deal would not be ratified if the UK proceeds with two pieces of legislation that breach the Northern Ireland Brexit deal, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said.

As British and EU negotiators meet to try to hammer out a last-ditch deal, Mr Coveney said he wanted a deal this week to provide certainty but he raised concerns about the UK government’s plan to legislate with two bills that would breach the withdrawal agreement brokered in January.

“I don’t see how, even if there is a compromise agreed this week, that that agreement would be ratified if the UK, in two pieces of domestic legislation, is breaching the withdrawal agreement, which isn’t even 12-months-old,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s This Week radio programme.

He said that it would be “unhelpful” if the UK proceeded with treaty-breaking clauses in the Internal Market Bill and a finance bill but that he saw them “as a negotiating strategy to try to gain leverage” during the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the UK in Brussels.

The British government is proposing two bills that would breach the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland that was part of the withdrawal deal agreed by the EU and UK in January.

“Instead of being distracted by those two pieces of legislation, I think the EU and the UK negotiators need to focus on getting a deal here that’s in the interests of both sides,” he said.

“I think that the problem linked to those pieces of legislation may find a way of disappearing if we can get the negotiation agreed on the substance of the issues.”

Acrimony and division

Mr Coveney said that the 95 per cent of the work was done towards reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement between the EU and UK before the transition period ends on December 31st and that the “last 4 or 5 per cent is very difficult” on three issues that remain outstanding.

Negotiators were “still stuck” on an agreement on EU fishing rights in British waters, a “level playing field” for fair competition and governance rules on enforcing a trade deal, he said.

Mr Coveney rejected the idea of agreeing to have no deal in place for the end of the transition period where negotiations would restart next year when the UK is in a weaker position.

He did not think any EU member states were proposing this as an option, he said.

This poses “a lot of downside” for both sides and it would lead “to a lot of acrimony, a lot of division and an atmosphere that would make compromise much, much more difficult,” he said.

“What we want is a deal this week in the next few days to provide the certainty that everybody is craving, so that they can plan for the future, in a way that guarantees the positive relationship between the UK and the EU and Britain and Ireland in the future,” he said.

A deal would avoid “the kind of disruption and division and acrimony that not being able to get a deal will result in,” he said.


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