Senior Government members have rejected claims from UK prime minister Boris Johnson that the EU is seeking to impose a blockade in the Irish Sea after Brexit.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said another of Mr Johnson’s claims – that he needed to dismantle parts of the withdrawal agreement he reached with the EU in order to “stop a foreign power from breaking up” the UK – were “not the case and he knows well that’s not the case”.
Mr Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday that the EU was threatening to impose a food “blockade” in the Irish Sea that would destroy the “economic and territorial integrity of the UK”.
This was a reference to the need for the UK to outline its future food standards regime to the EU before being granted permission to export to the bloc.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney dismissed Mr Johnson’s claims as “totally bogus” and “absolutely not true”. He said the UK was damaging its international reputation and he criticised as “spin” Mr Johnson’s claim about a blockade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Coveney said there may be “limited checks” on goods coming from Britain into the North because there was an agreement to prevent the need for physical infrastructure on the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The measures were envisaged to stop goods passing from England, Scotland or Wales into the Republic via Northern Ireland tariff-free if no wider agreement were to be struck between the EU and UK.
Protocol on IE/NI is not a threat to the integrity of the UK. We agreed this delicate compromise with @BorisJohnson & his gov in order to protect peace & stability on island of Ireland. We could not have been clearer about the consequences of #Brexit [1/2]
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) September 13, 2020
“There is no blockade proposed,” the Minister told RTÉ radio’s This Week.
With official contacts between the EU and UK sides on their future relationship expected this week, ahead of the final negotiating round next week, Mr Martin said a no-deal Brexit would be “ruinous” to the British economy and extremely damaging for jobs.
Mr Martin told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that Mr Johnson “and politicians in Britain and Ireland and Europe have only one obligation – to protect the people we serve, to protect their livelihoods and their jobs”.
Mr Martin said Mr Johnson was “creating assertions that are in no way connected with the reality as contained within the protocol or withdrawal agreement”.
Meanwhile, MPs from Northern Ireland have put forward amendments to the UK’s controversial Internal Market Bill, which is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons today. Not all of the amendments will be selected for debate.
One tabled by the SDLP MPs Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna is aimed at blocking the Bill’s progression, stating that the House declines to give the Bill a second reading “because it is a self-described breach of international law as per the Ireland protocol and an outright violation of the Good Friday Agreement, including by undermining the power of devolved institutions”.
Mr Eastwood on Sunday said he would “resist this legislation at every stage”, saying that it “brings us closer to a hard border in Ireland than we have been at any point in these negotiations”.
An amendment has also been tabled by the DUP’s MPs in regard to the part of the Bill relating to financial assistance, which is intended to ensure that the relevant section “will apply to Northern Ireland in the same way as to the other parts of the United Kingdom”.
DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said it would “ensure the UK sets the rules on state aid in Northern Ireland … Such a tool is vital to help us fend off predatory behaviour from our nearest competitor.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has requested that the North’s Assembly today debate the “breach of international law” that the Bill represents.
“The British government is clearly acting in bad faith, and the international community can see that,” she said. “The protocol has been agreed to, it is part of an international treaty and it cannot be wished away.”