The British government hasn't engaged in serious negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol since the middle of February, yet is claiming to have exhausted all attempts to reach a solution, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said today.
“The British Government now says that we've exhausted negotiations, we're getting nowhere and therefore we have to act unilaterally with our own legislation,” Mr Coveney said.
“That that argument just doesn't hold any water when you actually haven't even attempted to negotiate.”
The minister said Britain’s current actions were sending “a terrible signal” around the world.
“There is a way forward, based on negotiation. The EU has shown its willingness to compromise. We certainly recognise there are problems with the protocol. The Unionist community in Northern Ireland has legitimate grievances.
“That can be responded t, through flexibility and pragmatism on how the protocol is implemented.
“But the only way that works is if the British government comes back and starts talking to the EU in a way that's honest and realistic — as opposed to as opposed to effectively saying: ‘You give us what we want, or we're going to legislate to take it anyway,’ and break international law to do that.”
He was commenting on RTE radio after writing a joint op-ed for the Observer with the new German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, warning there is “no legal or political justification” for plans to override the protocol.
The two ministers said Boris Johnson’s new legislation to allegedly protect the ‘UK single market’ instead risks undermining the “rules-based international order” — just as the continent is attempting to confront Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
They added that the EU had been and would continue to be “flexible and creative” to deal with legitimate concerns.
“Unfortunately, the British chose not to engage in good faith with these proposals,” they wrote.
“Instead of the path of partnership and dialogue, the British Government has chosen unilateralism.
“The tabling of legislation this month will not fix the challenges around the protocol. Instead, it will create a new set of uncertainties and make it more challenging to find durable solutions.”
Today Mr Coveney said the joint article reflected support for Ireland’s position across Europe.
“What today's article in the British media is about is not only Ireland saying this, but also Germany. And if you listen to any European capital, whether it's Paris, Prague, Warsaw or Madrid, they're all saying the same thing to the UK: ‘Don't break international law, certainly not at this time when we're trying to hold Russia to account under international law.’”
In the article, Ms Baerbock and Mr Coveney point out Russia is “leading a ruthless war in Ukraine, breaking with our European peace order,” and as a result the EU and UK “must stand together as partners with shared values.”
This requires a commitment to uphold and strengthen the rules-based international order.
“We urge the British government to step back from their unilateral approach and show the same pragmatism and readiness to compromise that the EU has shown.
“By working together – in partnership and with mutual respect – common ground can be found and challenges, no matter how difficult, can be overcome.”
The intervention shows a co-ordinated effort within the EU to back Ireland in the dispute, as well as a hardening of Germany’s position, said the Observer.
Meanwhile the German Ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, told Sky News today that the British unilateral move “will obviously be seen as a challenge to international law and the rule of law in general.
“The best that can be done is to go back into legality — and that means negotiate to find technical and practical solutions.”
He added: “ The European Union is ready to do that. But what we also cannot accept is a challenge and a risk to our internal market.”