By James Ward, PA
Simon Coveney has welcomed an agreement between the EU and the UK to secure the supply of medicines into Northern Ireland.
The EU has announced proposed laws to assist the free flow of medicines from Britain into the North, in a move it said would create momentum to resolve other disputes over Brexit’s Irish Sea border.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic announced the legislative proposals in Brussels on Friday.
Welcoming the move, Foreign Minister Mr Coveney said: “Access to medicines has been at the top of my agenda.
“The plan announced today turns commitment into solutions.
“By ensuring the continued long-term supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and in addressing other supply issues for Ireland, it provides reassurance to people across the island that they will continue to have access to the medicines they need.
“I hope that this solution on medicines can act as a catalyst for solving the other protocol issues early in the new year.”
Protocol talks are set to resume in January when efforts will intensify to resolve the areas of dispute.
Mr Coveney said: “I firmly believe the protocol will work, if we allow it, with flexibility and pragmatism.
“A positive outcome to the current talks remains our key objective.
“I welcome the fact that the EU and the UK have agreed on the importance of continuing talks in the New Year.
“This is the best way to bring about substantive progress and find durable solutions to the practical problems faced by people and business in Northern Ireland.”
Following the announcement, Mr Sefcovic said he hoped there would be a “gear change” in the wider negotiations with the UK on protocol issues next month.
“Today is a further demonstration of the EU’s unwavering commitment to stability and predictability for citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland and I urge the UK Government to reciprocate our efforts,” he said.
“The EU and the UK are partners with shared values and shared global challenges so it is time to change gear and bring our partnership to the level on which it belongs.”