UK has put up red line barrier to progress in negotiations with EU, Coveney says

UK to push for ‘significant change’ in Northern Ireland protocol

Britain has erected a “red line” barrier in negotiations with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol which threatens a breakdown in relations, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has warned.

UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is expected to demand on Tuesday that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is removed from oversight of the post-Brexit deal, which he negotiated with Brussels.

In a speech to diplomats in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, he is due to say the role of the ECJ “and the consequent inability of the UK government to implement the very sensitive arrangements in the protocol in a reasonable way has created a deep imbalance in the way the protocol operates.”

“Without new arrangements in this area the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive,” a transcript of his speech says.


Responding to the remarks on Twitter, Mr Coveney said the EU was “working seriously to resolve practical issues” with the implementation of the Protocol, adding: “So UKG [UK government] creates a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress, that they know EU can’t move on…. are we surprised?”

Mr Coveney said the “real question” is “does UKG actually want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations?”

Reacting to the tweet, Mr Frost said he preferred “not to do negotiations by Twitter, but since [Mr Coveney] has begun the process... the issue of governance & the [ECJ] is not new.”

“We set out our concerns three months ago in our 21 July Command Paper. The problem is that too few people seem to have listened,” he tweeted.

Mr Frost said Britain awaits proposals from the EU and “will look at them seriously & positively whatever they say.”

“We will discuss them seriously and intensively. But there needs to be significant change to the current situation if there is to be a positive outcome,” he added.

European Commission proposals to resolve issues with the protocol are expected to be presented on Wednesday.

On Thursday, EC vice-president Maros Sefcovic said it would finalise measures next week aimed at resolving the post-Brexit arrangements for the North by the end of the year or early 2022.

But he again cautioned that he would not renegotiate the protocol, and that solutions would have to be found within the terms of the deal.

The protocol, agreed between London and Brussels as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, has created a de facto trade border for some goods moving between the North and Britain.

Checks are being carried out on the Irish Sea to ensure goods coming into the North meet EU standards, so as to protect the EU single market and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Unionist political leaders are united in their opposition to the arrangements.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the EU needs to make “concrete legislative changes that deal with all the problems Northern Ireland faces because of the protocol, whether that is in agrifood, manufacturing or on our supermarket shelves”.

Without sufficient changes to the deal, Mr Donaldson again threatened to collapse the Stormont Assembly and trigger an election to “let the public have their say on the Irish Sea border”.

“The last number of weeks have sent a clear message to the European Union that, if they really believe in stability and protecting the progress made in Northern Ireland, then they need to think again,” he said.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Frost is also expected to say endless negotiation is not an option.

“No one should be in any doubt about the seriousness of the situation ... The EU now needs to show ambition and willingness to tackle the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol head on,” the speech transcript said.

“The UK-EU relationship is under strain, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By putting the protocol on a durable footing, we have the opportunity to move past the difficulties of the past year.” - additional reporting by Reuters