New Prime Minister Boris Johnson had deliberately set Britain on a “collision course” with the EU over Brexit negotiations, Ireland’s foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.
Simon Coveney was quoted by Irish state broadcaster RTE as saying in Belfast: “He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations.
“I think only he can answer the question as to why he’s doing that.”
In his maiden parliamentary speech as prime minister on Thursday Johnson promised to press ahead with plans to reopen the deal agreed with the EU – despite firm pushback from other EU leaders.
Tension around the withdrawal deal centres on the so-called backstop – a mechanism designed to preserve the EU’s single market and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The clause was the chief reason the deal thrice failed to pass through the British parliament under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, bringing the nation to the brink of a crash out, requiring extensions from the EU and ultimately unseating her from power.
But on Thursday Johnson hardened rhetoric around a no-deal Brexit, which would see Britain leave the trading bloc without cushioning measures on October 31 if a deal cannot be brokered.
Coveney said Johnson’s remarks were “very unhelpful”.
“From a Brexit-negotiating perspective it was a very bad day yesterday, and we’ll have to wait and see whether that message coming from London changes,” he said.