The Minister for Foreign Affairs has said Britain's move in unilaterally extending the grace period for post-Brexit checks on goods into Northern Ireland is "damaging relationships" between the EU and UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Simon Coveney said that the EU "has very little choice" in its response, adding that the EU wants to resolve the issue through negotiation and listen to business leaders in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons that the extension of the grace period was until October.

Businesses in Northern Ireland had been pressing for an extension to avoid a cliff-edge plunge into extra bureaucracy linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Today, Minister Coveney said: "I think the EU has very little choice. What the EU wants to do is resolve these issues through negotiation, to listen to business leaders in Northern Ireland to understand what the problems with the implementation of the protocol are, and to try and accommodate the concerns.

"That's what we all want to do. Nobody wants disruption or rancor or division in Northern Ireland. We've had enough of that on Brexit, certainly in Ireland we have."

Mr Coveney also said he believed that Washington would watch with "significant interest" in how the EU and UK negotiate in a way that maintains political stability in Northern Ireland.

He said the only way to do that was to act together, and not act unilaterally and breach treaties.

Asked about how the checks across the Irish Sea into Northern Ireland were operating, in terms of how some farmers were struggling to get some products such as seeds, Mr Coveney said there was nothing new in this.

He said the difficulty they have with Britain's approach now is that they are "largely ignoring" that these issues were discussed throughout Brexit negotiations, and that an agreement was reached to try to minimise disruption - the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Coveney said "many people" knew that this is how things would end up, adding that the protocol "is clear", and pointed to an agreement reached in December between Michael Gove and Maros Sefcovic on how the protocol would be implemented.

He said this involved some grace periods and flexibility, but was clear that any further flexibility needed to be agreed collectively between both sides.

Asked if the Taoiseach would encourage US President Joe Biden to make any US trade deal conditional on the situation in Northern Ireland, Mr Coveney said the Taoiseach would not need to do so.

He said Mr Biden "has already made the case very clearly" that he watches the peace process, and recognises that Brexit is disruptive to trade.

Mr Coveney said any future transatlantic trade deal should involve the UK, the EU, the US and Canada, adding they all run economies based on similar structures.

He said the Irish position was that they want to be "as close as we possibly can" within the EU, to the UK from a trade point of view.