Any UK government unilateral action to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol would be “anti-democratic”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has warned.
Leaders in the UK have increasingly hinted they could take unilateral action on the post-Brexit treaty, with Boris Johnson arguing the Good Friday Agreement is more important than the protocol he signed up to.
European leaders have warned the UK not to make the incendiary move, amid fears it could provoke a trade war with Britain’s largest trading partner.
Mr Coveney said the EU wanted to implement the protocol with “flexibility and pragmatism” to take account of unionist concerns, with some opposing the protocol because it keeps the region aligned with the EU single market for goods.
He told BBC Radio Four: “What is being looked for in Northern Ireland, from business people and many in the unionist community, what they want is to ensure that trade within the United Kingdom is facilitated and checks are removed when possible on goods that are staying in Northern Ireland.
“That is what the EU Commission wants to resolve but unfortunately they can’t do that if they don’t have a partner and there is a lot going on this week in the context of ratcheting up language, increasing tension unnecessarily between the UK and the EU.”
Your government is deliberately deciding to breach international law, which is something that every former prime minister still alive in Britain has warned against.
Asked what were the implications of the UK government taking unilateral action on the protocol, Mr Coveney added: “People across the United Kingdom need to understand what that means, it means that your government is deliberately deciding to breach international law, which is something that every former prime minister still alive in Britain has warned against.
“It means that the British government would be deliberately acting in an anti-democratic way because 53 of the 90 MLAs elected to the Assembly in Northern Ireland are supportive of the protocol.”
He added: “Don’t forget this treaty was designed and ratified and agreed by the British government under this prime minister.
“He stood for election and got a huge mandate from the British people on the back of that deal and now is blaming the deal for the problems in Northern Ireland.”
'What the EU wants is secondary'
Meanwhile, the UK’s Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg said the EU is trying to make the UK “feel bad” about Brexit through its approach to dealing with the protocol.
He told GB News: “I think it (the EU) wants to make the UK feel bad about having left the European Union and that underpins its whole policy and it doesn’t really mind about the consequences of that.
“And we just have to get on with life and recognise that we have left.
“We have to make our own way. We are an independent country, and what the EU wants and thinks is secondary.”
It comes as the DUP confirmed on Friday that it would not nominate a speaker for the first sitting of Northern Ireland’s devolved Stormont Assembly as part of its protest against the protocol trading arrangements.
This will leave the Assembly unable to function.