The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has suggested that the British government’s Northern Ireland (NI) protocol bill may only have been introduced as a ploy to gain a better footing in Brexit talks with the EU.

Minister Coveney said the bill was creating greater uncertainty for the all-island economy, with the agri-food sector being particularly exposed to any disruption to the implementation of the protocol. The minister stated that a window of opportunity had been created by the appointment of the new prime minister Liz Truss to get the NI Assembly sitting, which would help ease Brexit tensions.

If NI remains without a first minister before the end of October, a fresh set of elections will be called, with the former Minister for Agriculture saying that such elections would make a Brexit compromise more difficult.

“What we don’t know is whether this is essentially a negotiating tactic to try to create pressure or compromise or whether it is an absolutist position. I certainly hope and suspect it isn’t,” the minister commented to the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) conference.

“Anybody who is working in the dairy sector will know the importance of ensuring that NI and the Republic of Ireland can continue to contribute to the same milk pool.”

In order for that to happen, Northern Ireland needs to remain within the single market, he said.