Brexit: Ireland accuses Boris Johnson of ‘inflammatory language’ and warns talks ‘at risk’

Simon Coveney urges UK government to ‘behave as modern democracies’ should and honour international agreements

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 13 September 2020 16:07
Comments
Brexit: Ireland accuses Boris Johnson of ‘inflammatory language’

Ireland’s foreign minister has accused Boris Johnson of “inflammatory language” and jeopardising Brexit trade negotiations after Boris Johnson claimed the EU was threatening the integrity of the UK.

In response to the prime minister’s contentious proposals to override aspects over the Brexit agreement, Simon Coveney also urged the UK government to “behave as modern democracies should” and honour international agreements it had signed.

The comments came after Mr Johnson used a newspaper article to double down on plans to introduce legislation to disapply key parts of the EU withdrawal agreement if negotiations with the bloc over a future trading agreement collapse.

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told MPs last week the proposals, if passed by parliament, would breach international law in a “limited and specific” way – an extraordinary admission that provoked outrage from Brussels.

Attempting to dissuade potential Conservative rebels from scuppering his plans, Mr Johnson claimed over the weekend the EU could “carve up our country” unless MPs pass the Bill that will be introduced in the Commons tomorrow.

He added: “I have to say that we never seriously believed that the EU would be willing to use a treaty, negotiated in good faith, to blockade one part of the UK, to cut it off, or that they would actually threaten to destroy the economic and territorial integrity of the UK.”

Responding to remarks on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Coveney said there was only one side in the negotiations threatening to “break its word” and international law.

“The British government is behaving in an extraordinary way. The British people need to know that because outside of Britain where this issue is being discussed now, the reputation of the UK and Britain as a trusted negotiator on important issues like this is being damaged in a very serious way.”

He later added: “There is no blockade proposed. That is the kind of inflammatory language coming from No 10 which is spin and not the truth.”

In a separate interview, the Irish justice minister Helen McEntee claimed the unilateral action to introduce the controversial legislation had “damaged trust” between the EU and the UK. “We’re in a very difficult space,” she said.

Asked on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme whether the bloc would look at taking legal action or consider sanctions against the UK, Ms McEntee added: “This is something that could happen.

“I think other implications as I’ve mentioned – the overall trade agreement, that is certainly at risk if this is implemented.”

On Sunday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, also said the Northern Ireland protocol in the EU withdrawal agreement was “not a threat to the integrity of the UK”.

“We agreed this delicate compromise with Boris Johnson & his gov in order to protect peace & stability on island of Ireland. We could not have been clearer about the consequences of Brexit,” he tweeted.

Mr Barnier also said “sticking to facts is also essential” and insisted the EU is not refusing to list the UK as a third country for food imports – as claimed by the prime minister in his article over the weekend.

“To be listed, we need to know in full what a country’s rules are,” he added. “The same objective process applies to all listed countries.”

However, in a series of posts on Twitter, the UK’s chief negotiator Sir David Frost responded to his counterpart, insisting the EU had made “clear to us in the current talks there is no guarantee of listing us”.

He went on: “I am afraid it has also been said to us explicitly in these talks that if we are not listed we will not be able to move food to Northern Ireland. The EU’s position is that listing is needed for Great Britain only, not Northern Ireland.

“So if GB were not listed, it would be automatically illegal for NI to import food products from GB. I hope the EU will yet think better of this. It obviously makes it no easier to negotiate a free trade agreement and the solid future relationship we all want.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in