The British government is “talking to itself” and ignoring the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, Simon Coveney has told Newstalk Breakfast.
The Foreign Affairs Minister was speaking after the legislation undermining the Northern Ireland protocol passed second stage in the House of Commons.
The was opposed by a number of top Tories – including former Prime Minister Theresa May and former Northern Secretary Julian Smith.
Simon Coveney said the British side has made no attempt to negotiate with the EU in nearly five months.
“This is hugely disappointing,” he said. “This is effectively the British Government talking to themselves again on Brexit. Ignoring friends and neighbours who are appealing to them not to take this course of action.
“Basically, every capital cross the EU is saying to the British Government don’t act unilaterally on this, don’t break international law; you are going to force the EU into responding in a way we don’t want to have to respond.”
He said the EU institutions are making the same plea – with Washington and Dublin saying the same thing alongside political parties and business leaders in the North.
“This is the British Government ignoring the majority of people in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Only yesterday we got confirmation in the latest opinion poll. 74% of people in Northern Ireland want the protocol issues resolved through negotiations between the British Government and the EU.
“To settle the issues in a way that guarantees stability and certainty for the future. Yet the British Government ignores Northern Ireland in terms of its majority and presses ahead anyway.”
He rejected the idea that the Irish Government and the EU are not listening to unionist concerns – insisting “nobody has been looking for compromise form the European Commission more than I have.
He said the EU has consistently shown itself willing to negotiate and has put forward tangible policies that would massively reduce checks in the North.
“This idea that we are not listening to unionist concerns is just not true,” he said. “We are.
“Maybe some people don’t want to hear that, but we are. The EU is and the Irish Government is.
“Of course we want to respond to what are real concerns from a minority of people in Northern Ireland, who want to see the protocol implemented in a very different way.”
He said the British Government bill will take “months not weeks” to pass the House of Commons – and urged Westminster to use that time to return to the negotiating table.
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