Tuesday 16 July 2019

Coveney warns against 'dumbing down' of Brexit challenges over Irish border

Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Ralph Riegel

TANAISTE Simon Coveney warned against the "dumbing down" of the Brexit challenges over the Irish border during the Conservative Party leadership context.

Mr Coveney, speaking in Cork, stressed that while Ireland would not get drawn into the battle for the Conservative leadership and the right to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, Dublin would respectfully challenge unfounded rhetoric over the so-called Irish back-stop.

His comments came as Boris Johnson is now the overwhelming favourite to become the next Prime Minister as he faces into a two-way vote with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt amongst Conservative Party members.

Mr Coveney said that while he is not worried about the EU standing firmly behind Ireland amid increasing UK demands for a Brexit deal renegotiation before the October 31 deadline, he was very concerned about where UK policy was now heading.

"I have no concerns about the unity of the EU and the solidarity across the EU," he said.

"But I do have a lot of concerns about where British policy towards Brexit is going."

"We simply don't know where it is going to go. That uncertainty is very difficult for many businesses, for many people and for many politicians to plan for the future."

"That is why we have intensified our efforts and our focus on continuing to plan for all contingencies including the worst case scenario which is a crash out, no deal Brexit."

"I hope that won't happen - I don't believe it will happen."

"Because everybody loses in that scenario - but I do think that some of the rhetoric that we have heard is simply not based on reality in the context of the leadership debates that we have heard in the UK.

Mr Coveney said Ireland will stay firmly out of the Conservative leadership contest.

But he acknowledged concern over some issues raised during the leadership campaign amongst senior Tory politicians.

"I say that respectfully - these issues cannot be dumbed down into simplistic solutions such as technology will provide all the answers," he warned.

"When we know that we have spent nearly three years exhausting debate and discussion around many of those (Brexit) alternative arrangements."

"I hope that at some stage in the future that alternative arrangements may well be possible to ensure that we never have to trigger the (Irish) back-stop provisions - or if we do have to trigger the back-stop provisions that they will be temporary in nature."

"But I think we have to live in the real world in terms of what is possible and what is not - in terms of what does the job and what doesn't."

Mr Johnson has previously proposed using technology to enforce border checks between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - despite warnings such technology does not currently exist.

"We are protecting here something that has been built up over the past 21 years since the peace process succeeded in the Good Friday Agreement 21 years ago," Mr Coveney said.

"I think that is worth protecting."

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