Ireland calls on UK to ease Brexit tensions over Northern Ireland

LONDON (Reuters) – Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Sunday urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to introduce new post-Brexit trade laws in the coming days which he said could undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Senior Johnson government officials have warned they could take unilateral action over rules governing goods entering and leaving the British-ruled province, raising alarm in the European Union.

Coveney said London, Dublin and Brussels could find solutions to trade issues in Northern Ireland that have infuriated pro-British politicians.

“But slashing and demagoguery in Westminster, building up tension, that’s not the right way to do it,” he told Sky News television.

When Britain left the EU, Johnson agreed to a deal that effectively left Northern Ireland in the bloc’s single market and customs union due to its open border with member Ireland. EU, creating a customs border with Great Britain.

Coveney said he was due to speak with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday.

“There is an opportunity, I hope, in the next few days to get this dialogue back on track,” Coveney said, urging London not to “deliberately breach international law and create huge tensions with our neighbors the closer and potentially undermine a peace process by doing so.”

Local elections in Northern Ireland this month have led to a new deadlock with pro-union parties opposed to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which sets out trade deals, and pro-Irish parties backing it .

Johnson is due to travel to the province on Monday and his office said he would deliver a “tough message” to political leaders to get their power-sharing institutions working again.

Downing Street also said Johnson would say he never suggested scrapping the protocol which instead needed to be reformed in order for it to achieve its original purpose of protecting the Northern Irish peace accords.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said London had the right under the protocol to take unilateral action to resolve trade issues and that the priority for London was political stability.

“It’s clear to me that without changing the protocol you won’t get an assembly, you won’t get an executive, and that undermines stability,” Kwarteng told Sky.

The United States called for continued dialogue between Britain and the EU to resolve the impasse.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by David Evans)