Irish foreign minister accuses UK of ‘perverse nationalism’ on US trade

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said an effort by the U.K. to get ahead of the EU in securing a trade deal with the U.S. represents “perverse nationalism.”

“This idea that Britain can get there first is narrow minded thinking, frankly,” Coveney said in an interview with The Times published on Saturday. “It’s a perverse nationalism when actually Britain and the EU should work together as partners,” he added, calling for a four-way deal among the U.S., EU, the U.K. and Canada.

Coveney also slammed the British government for its decision earlier this month to unilaterally waive checks for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Brussels is considering legal action against the U.K., arguing the move violates the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland Protocol. He cast the decision as a play for a domestic political audience that would tar the U.K.’s standing globally.

“It’s not how a developed civilized democracy should behave,” he said.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Coveney called for negotiating a way to ease the implementation of Brexit rules for Northern Irish businesses, to avoid ” disruption or rancor or division.”

Pressed on whether his own “perverse nationalism” comments could fuel rancor, Coveney’s appeared to try to take the heat out of his own remarks.

“I don’t think it makes any sense for some in the U.K. to sort of see this as a race to see who can get a trade deal with the U.S. first,” he said.

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