Avoiding a hard border in Ireland a 'pivotal issue' for Germany - Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
Avoiding a hard border in Ireland is a 'pivotal issue' for Germany says Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“Any insecurity or deterioration in relation to Northern Ireland must not happen as a consequence of Brexit and in this regard we need to stand united and need the united voice of the 27 partners of the EU”, said Mr Maas today.
“We stand by our position we have to avoid a hard border; it is a pivotal issue," he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top ally was speaking at a press conference alongside Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in Berlin today.
The Tanaiste was addressing the annual conference of German foreign ambassadors.
He warned that the formal Brexit date of 29 March 2019 is “not far away” and that finding an agreement on the backstop was the most "difficult" issue.
But Mr Coveney said the Irish border was an “EU problem” and not just one facing Ireland.
“It’s not simply an Irish problem that needs to be resolved in these negotiations and the British government understands that”.
Meanwhile, both ministers refuted claims reported in the British press today which quoted UK Prime Minister Theresa May as saying that a No deal Brexit would “not be the end of the world.”
“We do not want a no deal Brexit; we want a deal”, said Mr Maas.
“Brexit is difficult enough and if it takes place in a disorderly way it would be detrimental to all stakeholders involved which is why we are working towards forging an agreement."
He added there should be some success “in the coming weeks because time is pressing”.
Mr Coveney said a ‘no deal Brexit would be 'very bad news for Ireland and other EU countries’ and in Britain too.
He said the “various statements” emerging in the press about 'no deal' are designed to impact the negotiations, but says he is confident that a deal can be brokered.
“We will hear various statements as these negotiations proceed in relation to a No deal Brexit because it impacts on negotiation positions and so on; I don’t believe that a No deal Brexit is in anybody’s interest and I believe that we have the capacity to ensure that deals are done”, he said.
He also doubled-down on the need for the Irish backstop in the EU-UK Withdrawal Treaty, saying that matter would “not change”.
“It is certainly necessary as a fallback or insurance mechanism to reassure people they’re not going to face the consequences of a physical border on the island of Ireland again.
“That is an EU as well as an Irish position that’s not going to change."