Thursday 22 March 2018

Loose talk hurting bid for Brexit deal, says Coveney

Creed's statement 'unhelpful'

Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney said the scale and severity of humanitarian crises globally is overwhelming.. Photo: Collins Photos
Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney said the scale and severity of humanitarian crises globally is overwhelming.. Photo: Collins Photos

Sarah Collins

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has hit out at loose talk on Brexit, which he says has "hardened" positions on both sides.

Speaking a day after his Cabinet colleague Michael Creed said in a newspaper interview that there was a lack of political coherence and leadership from the UK, Mr Coveney said politicians needed to be careful what they said.

"All of us who comment on Brexit publicly - whether it's in the Irish Government, whether it's in the British government, or in other European countries - I think the level of seriousness that we need to be addressing this with now means that we need to be careful with what we say," Mr Coveney told reporters in Brussels yesterday.

He had been asked about Mr Creed's comments.

He continued: "Some of that commentary is unhelpful, I have to say - and it's not just on the British side. Some of the tough talk that we've seen in relation to Brexit on both sides, I think, has actually probably hardened views. What we need to do now is focus on the real negotiation."

Mr Coveney was speaking to reporters in Brussels as a second round of Brexit talks got under way, with negotiators focusing on citizens' rights and the UK's EU budget obligations.

This is the first substantive round of talks following a one-day kick-off meeting in June.

Today, negotiators are due to examine citizens and money and delve into more detail on other separation issues, such as nuclear energy, goods in transit on Brexit day and the jurisdiction of EU courts. The latter is a UK red line.

Read More: 'Sinn Féin is trying to exploit Brexit' - FF

A "political dialogue" on Ireland will also begin today, steered by EU deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand and her UK counterpart Olly Robbins, to ensure that Brexit does not reintroduce a hard Border or damage the peace process.


Mr Coveney said he hoped for "political acknowledgement of what needs to be achieved in terms of outcome" on the Border, but emphasised that customs checks were a "non-starter".

"What we do not want is to pretend here that we can solve the problems of the Border on through technical solutions like cameras and pre-registration and so on," Mr Coveney said. "That is not going to work."

He also said the UK was not being "realistic" about the kind of future trade deal it could get with the EU if it insisted on leaving the single market and the customs union.

"Some of the expectations being set, particularly in the UK, in terms of what's possible - particularly around the ability to be able to negotiate free trade agreements with countries all over the world while at the same time having open barrier-free access to the single market - I don't think that's realistic," said Mr Coveney.

A spokesperson for the UK's Department for Exiting the EU said both sides had "started the serious business of working through our positions in a number of areas".

He added: "We recognise that this will be a complicated and technical process and we look forward to coming back tomorrow to make progress on the work we have begun today."

EU and UK negotiators were without their political masters in Brussels for the talks, as UK Brexit secretary David Davis left after an hour-long meeting with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. He is expected to return for the conclusion of talks on Thursday.

"It's incredibly important that we now make good progress," Mr Davis told reporters ahead of the meeting, "that we negotiate through this and identify the differences, so we can deal with them."

Irish Independent

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