BBC host mocks Coveney after EU bypasses Ireland to hit out at Brexit Britain
Simon Coveney grilled on ‘finding answers’ over Article 16 row
Simon Coveney faced an intense grilling from the BBC’s Nick Robinson as the Irish minister attempted to defend the European Union after the bloc threatened to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit trade deal with the UK last week. After widespread outrage in Britain and Ireland over the threat to stop vaccines entering Northern Ireland from the EU, the move was dropped by the EU Commission. On the Today programme Mr Robinson brutally slapped down attempts by Mr Coveney to excuse the bloc’s bumbling approach to the vaccine crisis.
Addressing tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol which have seen “troubling” threats to trade staff, Mr Coveney said: “Certainly I think senior political figures need to talk seriously now about trying to diffuse tension.
“Which is clearly there and we need to talk about how we make the protocol work for effectively
“I have spoken to Michael Gove at length over the weekend in terms of how we might do that and also his counterpart in the EU commission Maroš Šefčovič.
“We will also, of course, speak to leaders in Northern Ireland about what flexibilities are possible to try to ensure that the protocol can function.”
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This response did not satisfy Mr Robinson, with the host appearing to mock the way the Irish Government had not been kept in the loop by Brussels.
He said: “What you need to do is this Mr Coveney, you need to work out why the EU got it so wrong and to be sure that they won’t do it again.
“Your leader the Taoiseach the Prime Minister was not even consulted neither was Boris Johnson, neither were leaders in Northern Ireland.
“So do you yet have the answers about why they did that,” asked the host.
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Mr Coveney acknowledged that the decision by the European Commission was a mistake and said it should not have happened.
He replied: “Well, Nick there are two separate issues here. Well, there is the mistake that the commission made on Friday which should not have happened.
“Which would not have happened had there been the appropriate consultation.
“That approach by the European Commission was reversed within hours when the Irish government and the British government found out what was happening.”
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“But that is a separate thing to implementation of the protocol,” he added.
“Which is essentially an Irish and British, and EU negotiation solution, an agreed solution, a part of the Brexit agreement.
“To try to limit the impact, the disruptive impact of Brexit on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“Let’s not forget that what is causing all of this tension is Brexit, not the protocol, the protocol is an attempt to try to reduce tension and solve problems linked to Brexit.”
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