Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney says 'change in tone' from British Government
The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said the change in tone from the UK government on the Northern Ireland Protocol has been noticed in Dublin and Brussels.
Speaking at the start of a meeting with the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in London Mr Coveney also said there was “serious work to do with tight timelines”.
The Secretary of State is chairing a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference and has said the upcoming anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement will also be discussed.
Renewed negotiations between the UK and EU to try to solve problems with the protocol resumed this week.
The secretary of state will have to call an Assembly election in Northern Ireland should not Executive be formed.
On Thursday, Mr Coveney said he did not think the issues around the protocol could be resolved within the tight timeframe.Both the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney have expressed their hope that their meetings through the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference can help rebuild relationships and get Stormont back up and running.
The Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker welcomed Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee to the opulent Lancaster House in London on Friday morning.
At the start of the meeting Mr Heaton-Harris told the Irish ministers they were “very, very welcome”.
He also said the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference was a “very important institution” and he hoped they could “garner its importance in coming weeks”.
Simon Coveney then expressed the Dublin government’s desire to get the relationship between the UK and Ireland “back on track.”
He said, “The British Irish intergovernmental Conference is a vital tool… it is the only part of the Good Friday Agreement that is working” as there is no Stormont, no north south council meetings. He said “I hope that through this structure we can start to rebuild other institutions too”.
The meeting between UK and Irish ministers is being held as renewed negotiations have started to try to resolve issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The DUP has said it will not return to Stormont until the problems are fixed and Northern Ireland’s place in the UK is secured.
While the key negotiations are taking place between the UK and EU, it is recognised that British Irish relations are an important part in solving the outstanding problems.
The Secretary of State also confirmed the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement would be discussed at the meeting.
During his opening remarks Simon Coveney also made reference to the Secretary of State’s experience as a football referee,
“We are playing for a nil all draw here… Northern Ireland generally works on nil all draws”, suggesting there should be no winners or losers in any negotiations on the protocol.
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