Sunday 26 May 2019

'It's a step towards a much softer Brexit' - Simon Coveney welcomes UK blueprint

Simon Coveney ( Brian Lawless/PA)
Simon Coveney ( Brian Lawless/PA)

Shona Murray

The British have moved a ‘step in the right direction’ on Brexit today, said Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May published the long-awaited White Paper on Britain's future relationship with the EU.

Mr Coveney said ‘contradictions’ remain within the UK's position and the EU's red-lines.

He warned of "difficult negotiations" ahead.

Of particular concern is the UK’s apparent demand for access to parts of the single market while refusing to apply all the rules like every other member state.

This is a red-line issue for Brussels as it is considered 'cherry-picking' of part of the four indivisible freedoms.

“This will be a difficult negotiation; and I don’t necessarily think that because the British position has become more credible that that’s necessarily the final picture.

“There are some contradictions.

“There are some proposals that will concern other EU countries because the single market and the four freedoms that are part of that; that are indivisible in most people’s eyes are a very important part of the privilege of EU membership”, said Mr Coveney.

The EU-27 has been clear all along that the four pillars of the single market - the free movement on goods, services, people and capital - are non-derogable.

The white paper contains proposals for the UK to remain within the EU single market for goods only.

It also plans to allow certain types of freedom of movement but confirms that it will not allow the type of free access to Britain that is enjoyed by EU member states currently.

Mr Coveney added that 100-page document essentially means that Britain is on the path towards a ‘soft Brexit’.

“This is a step in the right direction towards a pragmatic, sensible, Brexit.”

The paper has caused havoc and further disarray in Britain following from a week of resignation and rancour.

But the Tanaiste believes the resignations of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were a positive change.

“It’s been a very difficult week for the British government but from an Irish perspective and an EU perspective we have been watching on and what you’ll see is the EU taking this seriously now”, he said.

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