Irish foreign minister calls for ‘pragmatic’ approach to NI protocol amid British escalation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Simon Coveney has tried to de-escalate tensions in Northern Ireland amid inflammatory rhetoric by the British government and its local unionist allies

Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, has called for “pragmatism and flexibility” on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol amid British and allied unionist provocative steps.

Speaking to the Financial Times (February 16), Coveney called for the easing of the “operation” of the protocol so as to enable the UK and the European Union (EU) to secure post-Brexit “workable solutions” to mounting trade-related problems.

In recent weeks goods shipments to Northern Ireland have been delayed leading to some companies to stop sales to the region.

“Pragmatism and flexibility within the confines of the protocol actually strengthens the protocol. It doesn’t weaken it”, Coveney told the Financial Times.

“We shouldn’t see flexibility as a weakness or a concession. In fact, this is ensuring that we create an acceptance for and a full implementation of the protocol”, Coveney added.

The primary aim of the protocol is to maintain an open land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with a view to safeguarding the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which formally ended the war between the Irish Republican movement and the British state.

To that end, the Northern Ireland Protocol requires goods from Britain to Northern Ireland to follow EU customs and internal market rules, a framework that has been repeatedly challenged by the Tory government in London.

On the wider issue of peace and stability in Northern Ireland, Coveney said all key stakeholders have a “responsibility to manage a peace process, relationships on this island and relationships between Britain and Ireland”.

“It’s about recognizing . . . the tensions that [people in Northern Ireland] live with and the polarization in the politics there and it’s about ensuring that the protocol can be implemented with goodwill and will be supported in four years' time when [the regional assembly at Stormont votes] on it”, Coveney added.

Coveney’s conciliatory comments come on the heels of increasingly provocative steps by the British state and its unionist allies in the north of Ireland.

In the latest provocative measure, the British government is expected to approve a 25-mile undersea tunnel project linking Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Billed as a major infrastructure project, the plan is strongly opposed by both Scottish nationalists and supporters of the Irish unity movement on the grounds that it is a political stunt designed to undermine both constituencies.


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