Spain calls on UK to implement Northern Ireland Brexit protocol

At press conference, Spanish foreign minister expresses 'solidarity with Ireland' and urges UK against unilateral moves

2022-05-13 19:22:44

OVIEDO, Spain

Spain's foreign minister on Friday urged the UK to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol and to avoid any unilateral moves that would put the agreement in jeopardy.

“Spain, after Ireland, is probably the country that has been affected most by Brexit,” Jose Manuel Albares told a joint press conference with his Irish counterpart in Madrid.

“Given that situation, we've shared our solidarity with Ireland amid this difficult situation and these critical negotiations.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland's defense and foreign minister, slammed the UK's threats to take “unilateral action” after its government floated writing new laws to allow it to override parts of the protocol.

“Six years on and we're still talking about the consequences of Brexit,” Coveney lamented. “And this week, unfortunately, we've seen increased tension in terms of some of the language used by London.”

He emphasized that the UK designed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and although many people in Ireland “are deeply unhappy” with it, he said any problems can be resolved in “negotiations if there is the will, flexibility, and commitment.”

“Spain would not understand if the UK took unilateral action. All agreements between the EU and UK, like all international agreements, must be respected,” said Albares. “I don't want to even hypothesize the alternative, but Spain is ready for whatever happens.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was enacted in 2021 and requires checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK. This is because the EU has strict rules on products like milk or eggs arriving from non-EU countries and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, shares a border with the Irish Republic.

Spain also continues its own separate negotiations with the UK over the British territory of Gibraltar.

Albares said those negotiations are “moving along well” and that “concrete texts have been put on the table.”

“We hope that the UK will be constructive and open in the negotiations, and not the opposite,” he added.

Spain and Ireland share a close diplomatic relationship, and the ministers discussed further deepening economic ties.

Coveney said that of Ireland's 5 million residents, around 2 million visit Spain each year.