Northern Ireland: Coveney criticises 'sabre rattling' from the UK
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Northern Irish politician Baroness Kate Hoey shot back that if the EU wants border checks on goods entering the bloc from the UK, “then put it in their own territory – inside the Republic”. The incendiary remarks come as fears grow over a hard border on the island of Ireland, which could destabilise a fragile peace created by the Good Friday Agreement.
On Friday, Pascal Lamy, a former WTO and EU trade chief, spoke on the BBC about the ongoing dispute between the UK and EU about border provisions in the controversial deal.
He said: “If UK acts unilaterally saying there will be no border […] it is the UK saying we negate Brexit. The very decision to Brexit entails the existence of a border.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it.”
Mr Lamy distinguished the “DUP constituency in Northern Ireland” from “we continentals” in the Republic of Ireland.
However, Mr Lamy’s division may not be representative of the role the EU now has in maintaining the spirit and letter of the Good Friday Agreement – something which, pre-Brexit, it did not have to concern itself with.
The EU will likely have to face up to the fact now that its foreign policy must include provisions for maintaining stability on what is its westernmost border.
Mr Lamy continued: “If this is about is about how many toothbrushes [should be subject to checks], this is solvable.
“If it’s about there shouldn’t be a border between the EU and Ireland, then this isn’t negotiable because this is what the British people decided when they decided Brexit.”
Reacting yesterday (Saturday), Baroness Hoey, a former Labour minister and now peer, said: “How dare he tell the UK that they MUST put a border in their own country.
“If [the] EU wants a border to do checks on goods coming into EU, then put it in their own territory – inside the Republic.”
Since the UK left the EU at the beginning of last year, the Northern Irish border has been plagued with border checks and delays as new EU regulations were imposed on goods entering the country from the rest of the UK.
This is because, under the terms of the Protocol, Northern Ireland has remained a part of the single market.
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The Government has been seeking to renegotiate the deal to remove some of these border issues – which threaten the supply of medicine and food into the country – but has not ruled out acting unilaterally if an agreement cannot be reached.
The Government has previously proposed an arrangement by which goods entering Northern Ireland are only subject to checks if their final destination is within the rest of the EU.
The EU Commission put forward a proposal in October, in which it cut many border checks on things such as food.
However, the Government maintains that even under these proposals, were the indefinite grace period over the new arrangement to end, Northern Ireland would see “everyday items disappearing off the shelves”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Liz Truss said that though her preference was for a “negotiated solution” to the issue, she was not averse to “taking action to stabilise” Northern Ireland “if solutions cannot be found”.
A source close to the Foreign Secretary told the BBC she believed the current situation could not “drag on”, and was now eyeing domestic legislation to start scrapping parts of the treaty.
It follows Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, approving of a unilateral move on a legal basis.
EU figures have form when it comes to misunderstanding the situation in Northern Ireland.
Last June, Emmanuel Macron supposedly suggested that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK – something France later denied – which was said to have motivated Mr Johnson’s outburst that EU leaders had to “get into their heads” the importance of UK sovereignty at a G7 summit.
At the time, Dominic Raab suggested he had heard similar comments from other EU leaders, and branded them “offensive”.
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