The British government’s approach to the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland is set to cause “huge problems”, Ireland’s foreign minister has said.
Simon Coveney was responding to an article by UK Brexit minister Lord Frost published in the Irish press on Saturday.
Lord Frost had said EU concessions on trade rules last week were “welcome” but that the extension to grace periods “addresses only a small part of the underlying problem”.
The comments have baffled the EU side, which had just assuaged a British demand only to be asked to address more.
“Many in the EU are interpreting the UK’s response as essentially saying: ‘Look, concessions don’t matter. What is required now is to dismantle elements of the protocol piece by piece,” Mr Coveney told Irish public broadcaster RTE.
Describing the piece as “a very strange way to make friends and build partnerships”, he added: “That is going to cause huge problems”.
In a joint article with Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis published in the Irish Times Lord Frost accused the EU of not engaging “with the actual reality” of the protocol.
The pair of ministers argued that “opposition is growing” to the agreement in Northern Ireland and said it was “not a stable basis for the future”.
The attitude is frustrating the EU because the protocol was personally negotiated by Boris Johnson and his ministers, who hailed it as a triumph and ran in the 2019 election on the basis of implementing it.
But the new status quo has caused significant problems in Northern Ireland, seeing shortages of some products – which are expected to get worse when grace periods end.
And the decision to put a trade border down the Irish Sea has caused discontent in the unionist community.
The EU has proposed solutions to the problems, such as a veterinary agreement which would reduce some checks. The UK however says aligning with EU standards would somehow breach its sovereignty, and is worried about its impact on the ability to do trade deals.
Lord Frost told a committee a week ago that Brexiteers were surprised at the deterioration of relations with the EU since the UK had decided to leave. He said the relationship would be “a bit bumpy” for some time to come.
The protocal was negotiated as a solution to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which both sides agreed during talks was necessarily to protect the Good Friday peace agreement.