Irish government blasts ‘dishonourable’ Britain as country you ‘cannot trust’

Senior figures in the Irish government launched a scathing attack on Brexit Britain on Thursday after the UK government took unilateral steps to ensure supermarkets remained stocked in Northern Ireland.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis announced on Wednesday that the UK was extending the grace period on products imported into the province from Great Britain.

The period of transition for border checks was due to expire at the end of March and despite ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU on the problems with the NI Protocol, the UK government made the announcement to extend until October 1 to allow supermarkets enough notice to ensure shelves are stocked, given their often long lead times with suppliers.

Under the Brexit agreement, decisions such as this are expected to be agreed upon beforehand, resulting in the European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic releasing a statement last night accusing Britain of breaching international law for a second time in relation to the Protocol.

In typical fashion, the Europhiles within the Irish government have now piped up, with Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney claiming the EU is “negotiating with a partner it simply can’t trust.”

“That is why the EU is now looking at legal options and legal action which means a much more formalised and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve the problems together,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

Deputy leader Leo Varadkar went further, telling another morning show that the UK was not behaving “the way a friend should behave” and “not the way a respectable, honourable country should behave.”

Unionists hit back, with DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson referencing the European Commission’s crazy decision back in January to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol in an attempt to restrict the export of EU-manufactured vaccines to non-EU countries – a move that would have effectively created a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The move showed “very clearly that it remains within [the EU’s] remit to take unilateral action to protect the EU’s single market”, Mr Donaldson told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK Government has the same power – to act unilaterally to protect the integrity of the UK internal market and trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain,” he added.

Tensions are strained following the fall out over the Protocol, so much so that Northern Irish paramilitary groups have temporarily withdrawn their support for the 1998 Belfast peace agreement over concerns that the province has been annexed from Great Britain’s internal market.

Loyalists have written to the prime minister warning him not to “underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue right across the unionist family.

“If you or the EU is not prepared to honour the entirety of the agreement then you will be responsible for the permanent destruction of the agreement,” they added.

The prime minister assured concerned parties in the Commons on Wednesday that Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom was “rock solid and guaranteed.”