Brexit: UK 'can't decide unilaterally' on protocol says Coveney
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The European Commission has now formally launched legal action against the UK over an alleged breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Irish Prime Minister Mr Martin had warned Britain’s decision to extend post-Brexit grace periods “exacerbates uncertainty and instability”. On Monday, he also said: “Unilateral action to disapply or not to implement aspects of the protocol does nothing but corrode trust.”
But now Mr Martin, a firm opponent of Brexit, has launched another furious attack against the UK, accusing the nation of “EU bashing” which he claimed historically, “has been a feature of United Kingdom domestic politics”.
The Taoiseach added he hoped that would ease following Brexit but that the indications are, to some extent, that it’s still “alive and well”.
Ireland’s Prime Minister fumed: “Historically, EU bashing has been a feature of United Kingdom domestic politics.
“I was hoping post-Brexit that that might ease somewhat. The signs are it’s still to a certain extent, alive and well.
“I think there is now a need to move beyond that frankly.
“Britain has left – it’s a decision I regret.
“Ireland wants to maintain a very strong relationship with the United Kingdom.”
The latest attack comes just 24 hours after Mr Martin said the UK’s unilateral action on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement corrodes trust, while increasing uncertainty and instability.
He raged: “The Withdrawal Agreement contains within it mechanisms specifically designed to deal with issues that arise, a Joint Committee and Specialised Committees.
“That is where teething problems should be worked through, so that we can find common solutions.
“Unilateral action to disapply or not to implement aspects of the Protocol does nothing but corrode trust, the only basis on which sustainable long-term solutions can be found.
“It exacerbates uncertainty and instability; two things Northern Ireland can well do without.”
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The Taoiseach added much hard work had been undertaken to minimise the worst-case scenarios from Brexit, predominantly the risk of the return of a hard border to the island of Ireland.
This furious outburst came just hours after the European Commission announced it was taking the first steps towards proceedings over the alleged breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic accused the UK of breaking international law by unilaterally extending the grace periods on Northern Ireland.
In a statement, he said: “The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is the only way to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and to preserve peace and stability, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU single market.
“The EU and the UK agreed the Protocol together. We are also bound to implement it together.
“Unilateral decisions and international law violations by the UK defeat its very purpose and undermine trust between us. The UK must properly implement it if we are to achieve our objectives.
“That is why we are launching legal action today. I do hope that through the collaborative, pragmatic and constructive spirit that has prevailed in our work so far on implementing the Withdrawal Agreement, we can solve these issues in the Joint Committee without recourse to further legal means.”
But the UK Government has stood firm against these criticisms, and a spokesman said in a statement on Monday: “We have received the letters from the European Commission and will respond in due course.
“We’ve been clear that the measures we have taken are temporary, operational steps intended to minimise disruption in Northern Ireland and protect the everyday lives of the people living there.
“They are lawful and part of a progressive and good faith implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
The spokesman also repeated the Government’s defence that such measures are common in the “early days of major international treaties”.
He added: “In some areas, the EU also seems to need time to implement the detail of our agreements.”
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