'First big win of Brexit as common travel area to be retained' - Coveney
Ireland will retain the common travel area (CTA) with the UK in the first landmark agreement to be hammered out under the Brexit talks.
The impending CTA agreement, being hailed as a major victory for Ireland in the Brexit negotiations, will not include Border issues but will resolve a huge number of the Anglo-Irish concerns first raised by Brexit.
Business groups have hailed the agreement as a huge boost to trade between the two countries and something that will, at a stroke, eliminate many of the Brexit fears over Anglo-Irish trade, travel and social issues.
Under the deal, free movement of people between Ireland and the UK will be retained.
Furthermore, Irish and UK citizens will continue to have their common social welfare and healthcare entitlements respected by each country.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney indicated a deal on the CTA was now imminent and that it was "a big win" for Ireland in the EU and UK talks over Brexit.
"The first big win of the Brexit negotiations will be on what is called the common travel area (CTA)," he said.
"Ireland and Britain have, since 1923 and Independence, essentially recognised each other's citizens.
"They have allowed free movement between the two islands, access to healthcare and social welfare - you can carry your pension entitlements and you can vote in each other's country.
"We think we are going to get a deal on that and it will be protected even post-Brexit," he told RedFM Business.
"This would be a really good deal for Ireland. Of course, the really complicated deal is the Border."
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Mr Coveney echoed the warning of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that London had come to understand that agreement on Irish issues over Brexit was central to allowing the EU to move on to trade talks.
"We are part of those (Brexit) negotiations. Ireland is essentially on the EU negotiating task force," Mr Coveney said.
"We speak with them every day and Michel Barnier leads that task force.
"I speak to him a lot - that is my job in Government.
"My job is to co-ordinate the Government's response to Brexit and to make sure that Ireland remains at the centre of those negotiations.
"We can safely say that we are.
"Britain knows now that the Irish issues need to be resolved or at least for significant progress to be made on them.
"Without that, they cannot move on to talk about what they want to talk about which is trade and transition as regards the future relationship."
Signals of the deal came just days after Mr Varadkar warned that physical precautions along the Border for a "hard Brexit" were not taking place amid fears they could become "a self-fulfilling prophesy".