BORIS Johnson is damaging the reputation of Britain in a very serious way, the Irish government has said.

In unusually strong words, Simon Coveney, the minister of foreign affairs, said the controversial Tory Internal Market Bill had created “enormous tension” in Brexit negotiations.

He said it would be difficult for trade talks to continue if the legislation is voted through Parliament.

Boris Johnson defended the prospective laws on Friday, telling his own MPs that it would stop a “foreign power” from “breaking up the UK”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, an exasperated Coveney hit out at the Tory leader.

“There’s only one side in this negotiation that is effectively breaking its word,” he said.

“There’s only one side in this negotiation that has already broken commitments in what’s called the political declaration, which, of course, is a document that was signed in parallel with the withdrawal treaty.

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“And so the EU has remained consistent. What the EU wants, what Ireland wants is a deal that’s good for the UK, but that’s also good for the EU, so that we can build a future partnership based on trust, and prosperity.

“What is happening right now is that, as of last weekend, the British Government has made a decision to effectively create enormous tension in these negotiations with very little time left to get a deal, by effectively saying to the EU either give us what we want in these negotiations, which essentially is something that’s not consistent with what we’ve signed up to, in an international treaty less than 12 months ago, or we will pass legislation anyway to implement that.

“That is not the basis of a trusting relationship that can get an agreement on the implementation of an international treaty which is complex and difficult and requires compromise on both sides to get that deal done,” he added.

Coveney said the British Government was “behaving in an extraordinary way and British people need to know that, because outside of Britain where this issue is being discussed now, the reputation of the UK and Britain, as a trusted negotiating partner on important issues like this, is being damaged in a very serious way.”

Earlier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also disputed the British Prime Minister’s statements.

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He said the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland “is not a threat to the integrity of the UK. We agreed this delicate compromise with Boris Johnson and his Government in order to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland. We could not have been clearer about the consequences of Brexit”.

Barnier said that the EU is not refusing to list the UK as a “third country”, the source of Johnson’s claim about a “blockade” of Northern Ireland.

“To be listed, we need to know in full what a country’s rules are, including for imports. The same objective process applies to all listed countries,” he said.

However, British chief negotiator David Frost responded by saying the EU wanted Great Britain listed only, not Northern Ireland.

“So if GB were not listed, it would be automatically illegal for NI to import food products from GB,” he said.