Simon Coveney: 'You've got to call out Britain on what they're doing right now'


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.06 14 Sep 2020


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The Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said he still believes the UK's latest approach to Brexit is a negotiating tactic and that they 'have to be called out' for their actions.

He says he believes Boris Johnson still wants a deal - but that the British Prime Minister 'has a strange way of going about it'.

British MPs are due to debate a controversial new bill today that would breach the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and international law if passed, including undermining the Northern Irish protocol.

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A number of prominent Conservative MPs have spoken out against the UK government's bill, including former attorney general Geoffrey Cox.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Minister Coveney says he believes the British government is trying to create "a lot of tension" as trade deal negotiations with the EU reach their critical point.

Simon Coveney: 'You've got to call out Britain on what they're doing right now'

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He said: "The negotiations were going in a way that was building pressure on the British government to compromise on some things they had agreed to do - like agree with the EU a level playing field, so we'd have fair competition between the UK and EU markets.

"Last weekend, the hawks within No 10 managed to convince the Prime Minister to take a much more aggressive approach to these negotiations... where effectively the UK government is saying to the EU and Ireland 'give us what we want in these negotiations... some of which is not consistent with international law'.

"In many ways, it's an extraordinary approach to take in a negotiation with a partner you're looking to build a future relationship with."

'You've got to call them out'

Minister Coveney says he doesn't believe the British government wants to force the EU away from the negotiation table.

He observed: "I think the British Prime Minister does want a deal, but he has a strange way of going about it."

In terms of his strong criticism of the British government's approach, Minister Coveney said: "I don't say these things lightly: I'm someone who has all my life been shaped by Ireland's relationship with Britain.

"I can assure you I want to be part of an EU negotiating team that negotiates a fair and good deal for the UK.

"But you've got to call out Britain on what they're doing right now."

He said it's critical a deal is reached to avoid "very significant and negative consequences for the Irish economy and British economy".

However, he stressed that only a "basic and thin" trade agreement is now possible before January in order to avoid tariffs and quotas.

No 'heads up'

Minister Coveney says he was surprised he didn't get a 'heads up' from UK minister Michael Gove about the British government's plan.

He observed: "To be fair to Michael Gove, any time there has been something new coming from the British side that relates to Ireland or Brexit... he gives me a call, heads up or draft early so we can see what's happening.

"That's the way mature politics work between countries: that didn't happen this week, which was a surprise.

"We speak bluntly and honestly to each other. I believe he wants to get a deal... and we'll do everything we can to help in that process."

A number of prominent US Democrats have warned that a UK-US trade deal will not be possible if the British government undermines the Good Friday Agreement with their latest tactics.

Minister Coveney says that would be the case regardless of the outcome of November's US election.

He argued: "Even if Joe Biden doesn't win the US presidential election, I don't think anybody is predicting the Democrats aren't going to control the House on Capitol Hill... and any trade deal has to pass to Congress.

"Whether it's President Trump or President Biden after the elections in November, in my view there will not be a trade deal passed in Washington between the US and UK if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined by this British government."

Main image: File photo of Simon Coveney. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography / RollingNews.ie

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Boris Johnson Brexit Michael Gove Simon Coveney Withdrawal Agreement

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