Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has told an influential group of US Congress members about the mounting tension between the UK and the EU over Brexit.
Coveney and Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič addressed the Friends of Ireland Caucus - a bipartisan group including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Congressman Richard Neal - one week after the British Government took unilateral action to announce the extension of a grace period for agri-food movements between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Today, Minister @simoncoveney and @EU_Commission VP @MarosSefcovic met with the Friends of Ireland Caucus in the US Congress. The meeting was an opportunity to brief the Caucus on the latest EU-UK developments. See: https://t.co/Vvx1G0Yc07 pic.twitter.com/xeFV9qASwA— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) March 10, 2021
The EU contends that the move by the UK was a potential breach of international law and said that it contravenes the good faith provision of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The Irish Government believes that the Good Friday Agreement will come under threat if the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed during the Brexit negotiations is not implemented and Coveney hopes that the US Government will continue to show "unwavering" support for the peace agreement.
"The EU and the US have been unwavering partners to the peace process. Throughout the Brexit process, the EU has worked hard to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its dimensions and a hard border on the island of Ireland is avoided," Coveney told RTÉ after addressing the Caucus.
Coveney thanked the Caucus for their continued support of the Good Friday Agreement and said that the Irish Government wants the Northern Ireland Protocol to work for the island of Ireland "as a whole".
He said that certain measures were only possible if the British Government worked in co-operation with the European Union and additionally said that politics in Northern Ireland had been "strained" because of perceptions of the protocol and how it was implemented. Coveney also told the Caucus of the "divisions and tensions" in Northern Irish politics.
The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland by creating a new "regulatory border" between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The protocol has sparked anger and fear among unionist communities with unionist paramilitary organizations withdrawing support for the Good Friday Agreement until the protocol is removed.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that President Joe Biden's support of the Good Friday Agreement remained "unequivocal" in the wake of the British Government's decision to extend the grace period limiting red tape for agri-food coming into Northern Ireland from Britain.
The EU is poised to take legal action against the UK in the European Court of Justice over the move, but Coveney advised against legal challenges.
"The way to manage relationships between unionist leadership and the Government here in Dublin is not through legal challenges, it’s through working together and collaboration," he told RTÉ.