A British minister ardent Brexiteer apologizes to Ireland

A British minister, ardent Brexiteer, apologizes to Ireland

Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Monday (3 October) apologized for the damage Brexit negotiations have caused to Britain-Ireland diplomatic relations.

Steve Baker, a staunch Brexit supporter, said in an interview with Irish state media RTE that he regretted that “UK-Ireland relations have been complicated by the Brexit process”.

SEE ALSO – Charles III. promises to work for peace in Northern Ireland

“Enormous Fear”

The minister, who took office almost a month ago with the arrival of Liz Truss at Downing Street, also admitted his tough stance during talks over Britain’s divorce from the EU had “raised enormous concern”. “Some of our actions have not very respected the legitimate interests of Ireland,” said Steve Baker in that mea culpa.

“If I have to be a little humble to mend broken relationships, I’m happy to be humble to make it happen,” he added. The minister made a similar statement at the Conservative Party’s annual conference, which began in Birmingham on Sunday.

Steve Baker explained that while meeting Irish leaders at events organized following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, he “felt the ice thaw a little”. The government of Liz Truss, who succeeded Boris Johnson at the beginning of September, tried to set new priorities with both Dublin and Brussels when dealing with the thorny issue of post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.

As foreign secretary in Johnson’s government, Ms Truss had promised to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol the UK government had signed with the EU, which had pushed relations to an all-time low.

“Real Dedication”

Britain’s new Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic promised in an exchange on Friday to resume negotiations on the protocol, which have stalled since February.

On Sunday, Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin told RTE there was a “real commitment” to get this protocol issue resolved. The Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated at the time of Brexit creates a de facto customs border between the island of Britain and the British provinces, making supplies difficult and angering Unionists clinging to UK affiliation.

For several months, union leaders have refused to form a local executive branch to be shared with the now-majority Republican Sinn Fein Republicans unless the text is challenged. Steve Baker, who said his apology had not gone down well with Unionists, urged them to “defuse those tensions”.

SEE ALSO – Northern Ireland: London intends to amend post-Brexit deal “in the coming weeks”.