Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said it is not in Ireland's interest to see further legal action or trade disputes between the European Union and UK because of lack of progress on implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking in London ahead of a breakfast meeting with UK minister for EU relations David Frost, Mr Coveney said that a number of EU states are becoming frustrated with the process and the lack of progress being made on the protocol.

He said it risks becoming a destabilising factor in Northern Ireland and in the UK's relationship with the EU.

Mr Coveney said the key message for Mr Frost is that the two sides have to act in partnership together, rather than going it alone with unilateral actions.

He repeated his call for the UK government to consider signing a veterinary agreement with the EU, which he said would do away with the need for some 80% of the checks on food imports from Britain to Northern Ireland.

"We've got to find ways in which we can reduce the impact of the protocol together,'' Mr Coveney told RTÉ News in a pre-meeting interview.

"That means working out compromise positions within the parameters of the protocol to make it less impactful in terms of trade between GB and Northern Ireland - and there are ways to do that.

"But the danger is that if either side acts unilaterally. The British government has already acted unilaterally on a number of issues to essentially set aside elements of the protocol, because they don't like how they're being required to implement them.

"If that continues, then the protocol is going to become a more contentious issue, not a less contentious issue, because the EU will be forced into legal action and responding to a party and a partner that is no longer committed to what it signed up to.

"From an Irish perspective, the last thing we want here is a legal standoff between the two sides or retaliation on the back of non-compliance with international agreements. Ireland is looking for solutions that doesn't involve rancour or tension or standoffs and instead focuses on partnership and opportunities. And of course a protection for a peace process that at the moment is very vulnerable."

Mr Coveney pointed to a number of top level meetings involving the UK and EU's negotiators, Mr Frost and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefcovic - and the G7 summit in Britain - over the coming weeks as an opportunity to start to put some momentum behind the search for compromise solutions within the terms of the protocol.

He denied the EU had been inflexible in the process, saying the bloc has made a number of proposals to the UK side but: "There's very little coming back apart from media commentary around how inflexible and unreasonable the EU are".


Latest Brexit stories