Wednesday 20 February 2019

'All of a sudden we'll be the Government that reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland'

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Kevin Doyle and Laura Larkin

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney in insisting the Government is not planning to put checks on the border.

However, Mr Coveney has privately admitted checks on goods moving between the UK and Ireland will be necessary in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a private conversation with his Cabinet colleague Shane Ross, Mr Coveney indicated they should not talk about the possibility publicly.

During the discussion, caught on tape after a press briefing, the Tánaiste confirms that some form of checks will be introduced "but we can't get into where they'll be at this stage".

He added they "could be at sea", something that would be vehemently opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party.

Contacted by the Irish Independent last night about his conversation with Mr Ross, Mr Coveney told this newspaper:

"We are not planning to put checks on the border."

"What I explained to Shane was that the Government has made it very clear that we are not talking about Plan B in terms of the backstop.

"We will continue to advocate for a deal that took two years to negotiation."

Backstop

Mr Coveney said that the backstop already includes "some checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland but they are minimal checks".

He added: "Essentially what I was saying to Shane was 'yes there needs to be some checks, potentially at sea, which is consistent with the backstop approach'.

"But I was not suggesting the Irish government has some other plan that to construct border infrastructure because we don't."

The conversation came after Mr Ross bungled a question on whether in a no-deal scenario a truck could travel from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then on to the Republic without any checks.

"I would anticipate that there would be checks," Mr Ross said, before being interrupted by the Tánaiste.

Mr Coveney told reporters the question was another way of asking "if there are contingency plans for a Border on the island of Ireland".

"Let me just be very clear, we have made it very clear that the way to deal with the Border issue is what has been agreed after two years of trying to find the most sensible way of doing this," he said.

The Government has repeatedly sought to play down EU rules which indicate it would be our responsibility to protect the single market when Ireland becomes a land frontier for the EU post-Brexit.

Publicly, the Tánaiste said a new side deal between Ireland and the UK - involving several agreements - has been hammered out in order to maintain the common travel area (CTA).

The CTA allows free movement of citizens between the two countries and provides for social protection and the ability of students to study in both Ireland and the UK.

Mr Coveney confirmed deals have been reached on education, social protection and healthcare, with all "ready to go" as part of a bilateral deal between the two countries.

This will ensure the benefits of current arrangement continue "deal or no deal".

Irish Independent

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