EU-UK Brexit talks challenging, Irish minister claims

Simon Coveney Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney has said the EU-UK Brexit negotiations have been challenging in recent weeks and that the EU has his full support.

Mr Coveney made the comments ahead of meeting with chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Tuesday.

The remark comes amid recent controversy over the UK Government’s bid to use domestic legislation to override elements of the Brexit divorce deal, in particular the Northern Ireland protocol on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney said: “We will discuss the current state of play on Brexit and hear Michel Barnier’s assessment of where we currently stand on the most important issues.

“The last few weeks have been challenging – Michel and his team have our full confidence and support as we find a way forward.”

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland will remain in the EU single market for goods and administer the EU’s customs code at its ports.

The UK Internal Market Bill seeks to override elements of the protocol’s operation, including around the application of EU state aid rules in Northern Ireland and on the requirement for exit summary declarations for goods moving from the region to Great Britain.

The laws, if enacted, are designed for use if a wider trade deal with the EU and UK does not materialise.

Mr Coveney and European Affairs minister Thomas Byrne are due to exchange views with their counterparts on the current EU-UK negotiations at a meeting of ministers for European affairs.

Mr Byrne said he was looking forward to engaging with his EU colleagues in the General Affairs Council (GAC).

“During my time in Brussels, I will also take the opportunity to meet individually with a number of my EU ministerial colleagues,” he said.

“We will discuss the many important issues on the GAC agenda, including Brexit, the next EU budget and the rule of law in our union.”