IRELAND’S FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has dismissed Boris Johnson’s claims that the EU could use the Irish protocol to blockade food to Northern Ireland as “spin and not the truth”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Coveney accused the British government of behaving in “an extraordinary way” with its proposals for the Internal Markets Bill.
The bill would see the UK go against the terms of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement Mr Johnson signed alongside representatives from the EU earlier this year.
Johnson attempted to defend plans for the bill, arguing that without it the EU could blockade British food destined for Northern Ireland.
Writing in The Telegraph, the British Prime Minister claimed Brussels was threatening to use an “extreme interpretation” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He said this would allow them to impose “a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea” that could stop the transport of food from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Coveney vehemently rejected these claims though, branding it a “completely bogus argument”.
“There is no blockade proposed, and that is the kind of inflammatory language coming from No 10 which is spin and not the truth,” he told Marr.
“What is agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Protocol is that there will be limited checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland, because there is an agreement to prevent the need for physical border infrastructure on the island of Ireland.
“That is the whole basis of the Northern Ireland protocol which the UK designed, along with the EU together to protect peace in Northern Ireland… and that the British government is now looking to renege upon, which is why you sense a frustration in my voice.”
#Marr: Would the EU block goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain?
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney: This "inflammatory language" coming from No 10 is "spin and not the truth"#Brexit https://t.co/bGfFiQ3VjM pic.twitter.com/zG3l0rKAvd
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 13, 2020
Despite this, Coveney acknowledged that Ireland was not only the UK’s closest neighbour but “arguably, your closest friend”.
He added that while a free trade deal remains possible, it would be difficult for talks to proceed should the Internal Markets Bill pass through parliament.
"How then can the EU proceed with these negotiations, and put a new agreement in place, which will be the basis for a new relationship, if existing agreements, which aren't even a year old, are being legislated against?" he asked.