Coveney says Conservative Party divisions could be concern for North

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has described divisions within the British Conservative Party as being potentially a cause for “concern” given the impact it could have on Northern Ireland.
Coveney says Conservative Party divisions could be concern for North

Olivia Kelleher

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has described divisions within the British Conservative Party as being potentially a cause for “concern” given the impact it could have on Northern Ireland.

In an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said that it was unwise for him or any other Irish politicians to start commenting about the internal affairs of the Conservative Party.

However, he emphasised that he didn’t want to see Ireland being part of a strategy to maintain support with the Conservative party in the context of hardening the position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and ripping up international treaty obligations to do that.

“If those divisions within the Conservative party impact on Ireland because the prime minister or the British government decides in order to maintain support within the party that they have to take a tougher line on Brexit or the Northern Ireland Protocol well then obviously divisions within the Conservative party and the British government impact on Ireland. That is where we have a concern. Whoever is the British prime minister we will work with them of course.

"But what we don’t want to see is Ireland being part of a strategy to maintain support within the Conservative party in the context of hardening the position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and as George Parker (Financial Times Political Editor) just said a ripping up of international treaty obligations to do that.”

Knock on effect

He said any strategy involving hardening the position on the Northern Ireland Protocol would have a “significant knock on effect on Ireland — North and South".

“We have already seen the polarising impact that divisions around the Northern Ireland Protocol have had in Northern Ireland. That will continue until we find a way of settling these issues. The position of the Irish Government is very clear on this. We believe we can settle these issues.

"We can address to a large extent the concerns that have been expressed by the Unionist Community in Northern Ireland by implementing the Protocol with a lot of flexibility and pragmatism. And by doing that settling issues that have been causing divisions for far too long in Northern Ireland politics.

"But in order to do that we need a partner. The EU needs a partner. But so far the British government has not shown the seriousness I think to address those issues through negotiation and is instead threatening to publish legislation this week which would effectively be using British domestic law to breach international law by setting aside elements of their treaty obligations.

"That would be a big mistake politically, and I certainly hope that is not the price of the British prime minister maintaining majority support within his own party.”

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