BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain is making it more difficult to reach a basic trade deal with the European Union by pushing through domestic legislation that undermines its international withdrawal treaty with the EU, Irish foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after EU ministers were briefed by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on progress in talks, Coveney said many EU foreign ministers were starting to think that Britain did not want a deal with the EU.
“There is a growing sense that perhaps the United Kingdom does not want a deal and that it is more about managing the blame game as the negotiations fail,” Coveney said.
“I believe the prime minister and the UK government do want a deal. Even though they are behaving in a strange way to get that done in terms of the legislation coming through,” he said.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing a bill, expected to pass through the lower chamber of parliament next week, that would break agreements Britain made in the withdrawal treaty.
“People have been very taken aback by the deliberate strategy coming from the British government. This is very damaging to Britain’s reputation outside the bubble of Brexit discussions,” Coveney said.
“Undoubtedly, the tactics of the British government have made an already very complex negotiation even more difficult. Of course if the legislation continues, there will be a legal response from the EU, I expect,” he said.
(Reporting by Marine Strauss and Jan Strupczewski)