Wednesday 18 September 2019

Border checks will only be temporary until a trade deal is struck - Coveney

Speaking at a gathering of Fine Gael in Cork, Mr Coveney said he was 'convinced the prime minister wants to get a deal' even though significant gaps remain. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Speaking at a gathering of Fine Gael in Cork, Mr Coveney said he was 'convinced the prime minister wants to get a deal' even though significant gaps remain. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Border checks that have to be introduced in a no-deal scenario will be dismantled once a trading agreement between the UK and EU is eventually agreed.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said any checks introduced will only be considered a "temporary arrangement" by Ireland.

It comes as the European Union presses British officials to give a Northern Ireland-only backstop a second chance.

There is growing support within the EU for giving the North 'special status' as a way of breaking the deadlock and allowing the UK to exit on October 31.

"We want an agreement but we are aware that an agreement without a backstop wouldn't work," the new head of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, told a news conference in Brussels.

"We are willing to go back to the original EU proposal, which is that a backstop will only be added for Northern Ireland."

Denied lying to queen: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to apprentices yesterday as he visited the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender moored on the River Thames to mark London International Shipping Week. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Denied lying to queen: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to apprentices yesterday as he visited the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender moored on the River Thames to mark London International Shipping Week. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

The EU saw a possible opening in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's comments - signalling that he was willing to preserve an all-Ireland economy for checks on animals and food products, a single electricity market and travel zone.

Mr Johnson's spokesman has since said London was not seeking a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

Asked if that meant the option was dead, Mr Coveney said nothing had been taken off the table.

"We will respond positively if there are suggestions and new approaches that are based on realism in terms of what will actually work," the Tánaiste said. "Let's wait and see what the British government brings forward."

He said "nobody wants to avoid a no deal more than we do", but Mr Johnson has still not tabled any detailed alternatives to the backstop.

Speaking at a gathering of Fine Gael in Cork, Mr Coveney said he was "convinced the prime minister wants to get a deal" even though significant gaps remain.

The Irish Government is set to engage in a fresh round of talks next week on what happens at the Border if the UK crashes out on October 31.

"The most important thing we need to do is level with people," Mr Coveney said - but he again declined to give any specifics on how Border checks might work.

However, he said: "We don't regard those checks in a no-deal scenario as a permanent arrangement."

The Tánaiste said the EU and Ireland were working to agree what would amount to the "minimal number of checks that is credible".

Ireland is willing to impose some checks close to the Border in order to protect our membership of the EU single market. They will not automatically spring up on November 1, but will be rolled out over a number of weeks. The timeline is still being discussed in Brussels.

Mr Coveney said the idea put forward by UK politicians that a 'clean-break' Brexit would end three years of debate is a "contradiction in terms".

"The issue doesn't go away just because Britain leaves the EU without a deal," he said.

Mr Coveney added that those who dismiss the threat of a disorderly Brexit are "not being fully upfront about the challenges and complexity of no deal". He said Ireland would not allow people to be misled or the "can to be kicked down the road".

"We are convinced the prime minister wants to get a deal but there are significant gaps.

"If you look at the evidence as opposed to the language used, it's easy to be sceptical," he added.

Meanwhile, the British government insisted that its forecast of food and medicine shortages, gridlock at ports and riots in the streets after a no-deal Brexit is an avoidable worst-case scenario.

Mr Johnson was also forced to deny lying to Queen Elizabeth over the reasons for suspending the British parliament after a court ruled his decision was unlawful and opponents called for lawmakers to be recalled.

Irish Independent

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