Tuesday 19 November 2019

'Britain will have to compromise on Brexit'

Coveney insists UK will have to sign up to customs union to resolve border issue

Foreign Minister Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Mark Condren
Foreign Minister Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Mark Condren

Philip Ryan and Mark O'Regan

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has warned that the UK will have to compromise on Brexit or negotiations will break down.

Mr Coveney said he was disappointed with last week's talk which resulted in little progress on the Border or the financial settlement Britain will have to pay Brussels before it leaves the union.

However, the minister was heartened by the agreement reached on the common travel area between Ireland and the UK.

"The big problem is that the position that the UK has outlined in terms of their aspirations are not compatible with what the EU can facilitate and because of that the negotiations are going to get very difficult," he told the Sunday Independent

"Unless and until there is some compromise shown by the UK side in my view I don't see how it is going to progress," he added.

The minister said he believed the UK will eventually come around to the realisation that the only way to solve the border issues was for Britain to remain in the customs unions.

Brussels is insisting on reaching an agreement on the Border before discussing a trade deal with the Britain. However, UK Brexit Minister David Davis is anxious to discuss a trade deal in parallel with any discussion on the customs union and the Northern Ireland border.

In Britain, cabinet ministers believe there is now a one-in-three chance the UK will leave the EU without any trade deal. Eurosceptic ministers believe the chance of a hard Brexit increased significantly after a bruising round of negotiations last week ended in deadlock.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, who was in Ireland last week, previously said leaving the EU without a trade deal would be a bad outcome for Britain. However, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed she was in favour of leaving without a deal rather than accepting a bad one.

Mr Coveney is holding meetings with the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and EU Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt tomorrow. The minister will impress on both the need to focus on the vulnerabilities faced by Ireland in the aftermath of Brexit.

Meanwhile, Ireland's mushroom industry has warned a sustained weakness in sterling could inflict massive long-term damage on the sector.

Irish mushroom growers rely on the UK for 80pc of sales. The industry has been losing money since Britain's vote to quit the European Union sent sterling tumbling.

The first 100 days of Brexit saw three farms closing, with the loss of 130 jobs and €7m in exports.

IFA Horticulture committee chairman Gerry Reilly says seven of Ireland's 60 mushroom farms have gone out of business since the referendum. "I'd say 200 jobs have been lost now out of the 3,000 in the industry. We are tightening our belts and learning how to hedge forward," he said. "The Department of Agriculture have rowed in behind us to help our industry.

"Mushroom growers will survive as long as they get some short-term support. It's about hanging in there for the next number of months."

Sunday Independent

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