Monday 23 September 2019

'Real trust issues' with UK despite PM's visit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Reuters

Kevin Doyle and Hugh O'Connell

There is a "real trust issue" when it comes to the British government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned.

After the relatively successful visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, Mr Coveney has cautioned against too much optimism about a Brexit breakthrough.

He said the reneging on previous commitments to the backstop "has led to a real trust issue, quite frankly, with the current administration".

"Essentially, what they said was: 'We want to remove the solution to the Border question in Ireland, and we're going to make the problem that it solves an awful lot bigger'.

"Our response to that is: 'Well, if that's the approach, we're heading for a no-deal'. And the EU responded the same way."

There had been growing speculation that Mr Johnson is verging towards a proposal which is close to the Northern Ireland-only backstop that was originally tabled in 2017.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster, who scuppered the idea two years ago, was back in London again yesterday to argue against it. After meeting with the British prime minister, the DUP claimed last night that he had rejected a Northern Ireland-only backstop as a solution.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said it had a "very good meeting" with Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson told schoolchildren yesterday that he is working "very hard to get a deal".

"I was in Ireland yesterday talking to our Irish friends about how to do that. And we're going to go to Brussels and chat to some other European capitals," he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated to Cabinet ministers that the ongoing Brexit uncertainty means a general election is now unlikely before May 2020.

Mr Varadkar hosted a private dinner for Cabinet ministers in the Portrait Gallery of Dublin Castle on Monday night where, over a main course of lamb, he asked those present to outline their priorities for the coming Dáil term.

He also briefed ministers on his talks with Mr Johnson earlier in the day and the latest state of play on Brexit.

Irish Independent

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