The Minister for Foreign Affairs has called on the UK to enter dialogue to resolve the issues on the Northern Irish Protocol rather than taking the unilateral action of bringing in a new law to override the agreement.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting, Simon Coveney said a way must be found to "arrest the rot" in relationships and the EU had shown willingness to do that.

He said the publication of the legislation would represent a new low in British-Irish relations since the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Coveney said the UK needed to show evidence of a willingness to negotiate seriously to resolve difficulties.

He said it had appeared earlier this week that attempts were made to "harden up" the proposed legislation, but that had now been reversed.

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However, he added that the Irish Government does not know what was in the bill and would have to see.

Mr Coveney said the EU position had hardened in recent weeks because nobody believed the British government was serious about a negotiated solution as all the signals are about unilateral action.

He urged the UK government to step back from its plan to publish domestic legislation that would override elements of the post-Brexit protocol governing trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Britain is expected to table the controversial Bill in Westminster next week amid reports of differences within the UK Cabinet on how far-reaching the legislative proposals should be.

Mr Coveney and Taoiseach Micheál Martin are holding talks with UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in Dublin today.

They are discussing the ongoing stand-off over arrangements that require regulatory checks and customs declarations on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Ahead of the meetings, Mr Starmer accused Boris Johnson of taking a "wrecking ball" to UK relations with Ireland and the EU.


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British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is next week expected to use domestic law to override aspects of the protocol, which was jointly agreed by the UK and EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK is moving without the consent of the EU to change the terms of the international treaty in a bid to reduce the checks the protocol requires on the movement of goods across the Irish Sea.

The EU has made clear that such a move would represent a breach of international law and could prompt retaliatory action from the bloc.

Mr Coveney said publishing the legislation would "cause a lot more problems than it solves" in respect of Anglo-Irish relations and UK-EU relations.

"In many ways from my experience, and I've been to Finland to Sweden to Estonia to Latvia, and I've been speaking to many other EU foreign ministers, in many ways in the last number of weeks the EU position has hardened.

"I don't think there's a single capital across the EU and anybody in the European Commission that believes, at the moment anyway, that the British government is serious about a negotiated solution, because there is no signal coming from London that they are.

"Instead, all of the signals are about unilateral action, making demands with no willingness to compromise, and that has hardened the EU response to what they're seeing coming out of London now.

"So, we need to find a way to arrest this rot in relationships and instead to look to compromise, to negotiation, to dialogue, to solve what are genuine issues and concerns."

Mr Coveney said the last thing Ireland and the EU wanted was "tension and unnecessary rancour" in their relationship with the UK at a time when the focus should be on working together on issues such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"I just want to reinforce what the Taoiseach (Mr Martin) said this week when he said that should that legislation be published, it really will represent a new low in British-Irish relations since the Good Friday Agreement was signed," he said.

"My message to the British Government is a very clear one, which is that if you are genuinely interested in negotiated solutions to these problems, and there are problems in terms of the protocol and its implementation, well then let's see some evidence as to a willingness to negotiate seriously those solutions through compromise, through flexibility."

Earlier today, former taoiseach John Bruton said the UK's proposal to break an international treaty is "gravely serious" and sets a dreadful precedent for international relations.

The EU ambassador to the US said the UK would destroy the single market with its deeply destructive proposals.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Bruton said the Northern Ireland Protocol would encourage investment in Northern Ireland, which would give a huge advantage to the area.

He said: "We have to find some way of managing to ensure that what happens in Northern Ireland, it doesn't damage the single market of the European Union which is a vital national interest for us.

"But also to do the best we can to give businesses that are on this island of Ireland, but in Northern Ireland and not in the EU, privileged access to the EU market."

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane, PA