Friday 17 November 2017

DUP should not have 'veto' over Brexit policy, insists Coveney

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (L), Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (C) and Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini attend a foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (L), Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (C) and Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini attend a foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Sarah Collins

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has hit out at the UK government's handling of Brexit talks on the Irish Border.

He said the British government should not be drawing "red lines" and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - whose 10 Westminster MPs are shoring up the Conservative government - should not have a "veto" over Brexit policy.

"Anybody who tells me that something can't be done because the DUP won't accept it - I don't accept that," Mr Coveney said. "No one party here should have a veto on anything, in my view. The issues are far too important for that.

"Who knows, in a number of years' time, the DUP might not be in that position at all."

Mr Coveney repeated his desire - echoed in an EU working paper last week - for the UK to commit to maintaining EU customs and regulatory standards in Northern Ireland.

Last week, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said it would be "impossible" for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU customs union and single market if the UK left.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has also said solutions for Northern Ireland should not come at a cost to the UK's "constitutional and economic integrity".

"I don't think it's helpful for people to be drawing red lines, saying something is impossible," Mr Coveney said. "For us, it's impossible to envisage a hard Border on the island of Ireland, and I could be drawing red lines around that."

Mr Coveney, who was in Brussels for an EU foreign ministers' meeting, said that "new thinking" is required on the Border by December, when leaders meet to measure progress on Brexit.

"There's a need for some new thinking here, and that thinking has to be part of sufficient progress in December," Mr Coveney told reporters in Brussels.

He said Britain's position - that Border checks in Northern Ireland can be avoided once it exits the EU's customs and regulatory systems - was not "credible".

"We don't think that the papers that Britain published in the summer deal in a credible and comprehensive way with the Irish Border," he added.

Both sides still hope to move the talks on from the thorny divorce issues of citizens, money and Ireland, to transition and trade, by December.

But the talks are still deadlocked over money, with EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier giving the UK until the end of November to come up with a new financial offer, or face further delays.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a new "implementation bill" to assuage a cross-party group of MPs that they will have a meaningful vote on the details of a final EU exit deal.

The move follows numerous reports that Mrs May is also under pressure from Tory hard-Brexiteers to hold a tough line in the talks.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business