Monday 14 October 2019

Coveney rejects UK attempts to 'rewrite history' on Ireland's 'stubborn' position

Tánaiste Simon Coveney (left) speaking with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith (right) at Hillsborough Castle, County Down. PA Photo
Tánaiste Simon Coveney (left) speaking with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith (right) at Hillsborough Castle, County Down. PA Photo

Ralph Riegel and John Downing

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has roundly rejected attempts by some UK Brexiteers to "rewrite history" with misleading claims about Ireland.

The Foreign Affairs Minister's broadside came as all signals from Brussels and the other EU capitals were that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposals to replace the Irish border backstop were rejected as non-starters.

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The UK has been given until the end of this week to refine its more recent plans to avoid an Irish border ahead of an EU leaders' summit starting on October 17.

The Irish government is being extremely careful not to be seen as closing the door on a potential compromise which could avoid a no-deal Brexit in 23 days' time on October 31.

A spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted that he remains open to dialogue with Mr Johnson and his UK government colleagues and some contacts are expected in the coming days.

One senior Dublin source suggested Mr Johnson and the Taoiseach could make contact tomorrow once the Budget is launched and defended.

Riding into battle: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will make contact with Boris Johnson on Brexit matters once the Budget is out of the way. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Riding into battle: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will make contact with Boris Johnson on Brexit matters once the Budget is out of the way. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Discussions between the two leaders could happen on the phone, but a face-to-face meeting was not being ruled out.

"At the moment we accept that Mr Johnson is seeking a compromise deal.

"We will not close any doors," a senior source told the Irish Independent.

The UK has yet to publish in full the legal text about how Northern Ireland would stay in the EU's single market for goods and electricity.

A controversial proviso about the necessary consent of the currently non-functioning Stormont power-sharing Assembly remains a major stumbling block within the EU because it gives the Democratic Unionist Party a veto, before the arrangement comes into force, and then every four years.

Some UK media organisations have reported that the EU has completely rejected the London government proposals out of hand.

But Mr Coveney utterly rejected a proposed "carrot-and-stick" approach by London to pressure Dublin to help them broker a deal.

The "carrot" amounted to proposals to help fund Irish Border controls' apparatus and personnel.

The "stick" amounted to impeding UK medicine supplies, lengthy delays at Holyhead due to customs checks, loss of fishing rights off the coast of Northern Ireland and disruption to transport of horses between Ireland and the UK.

Mr Coveney brushed aside the prospect of any UK sweeteners.

"This isn't about money. If people still think it is well then they're really not plugged into the Irish mindset or to the history of this island," the Tánaiste said.

The Foreign Affairs Minister insisted anyone who believed Ireland was adopting a 'cash-for-compromise' position on Brexit deal was missing the point.

He also rejected UK reports that other EU countries were putting pressure on Ireland to compromise on a deal.

"This is not about money, sweeteners or being paid-off or anything like that.

"For people to try to shift that debate, to suggest that Ireland is the one being difficult or intransigent or stubborn on this, I think is trying to rewrite history, to be quite frank," he added.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association yesterday branded reports that the UK might use the fact that 60pc of medicines for the Republic come through the UK as leverage in Brexit talks as "appalling".

Irish Independent

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