Irish foreign minister hopes for ‘progress’ over NI Protocol

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has expressed hope for “progress” in talks between the UK and EU.

He made the comments as he welcomed his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to Ireland.

They will take part in discussions at the Farmleigh Estate in Dublin this evening.

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Speaking to the media ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney welcomed the first visit of a European minister to Ireland in a year.

He said the agreeing of the Brexit deal on Christmas Eve “did not allow for much analysis”.

He thanked France for its “unwavering support” to Ireland throughout the Brexit process and its “dedication to the peace process and relationships on this island”.

“It’s vital that the EU and UK work together to fully implement the protocol to protect both the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the EU single market, and to do so in a manner that impacts on communities in Northern Ireland in as little as possible a negative way,” he said.

“We hope that real progress can be made on these difficult issues as soon as possible.”

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Mr Le Drian responded saying the Northern Ireland Protocol is “not just about complying with commitments made, but also about peace”.

“The United Kingdom remain a key partner for us and there are many things we have to do in our common interests, but now it is for the United Kingdom to tell us what they are ready for. We stand ready to work together like I told Dominic Raab a week ago,” he said.

He described an earlier visit to Dublin Port, where he saw the implementation of customs and health controls on goods arriving from Great Britain, as “very interesting”.