Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Stubborn' stance on Brexit not a 'land grab'

Simon Coveney insists UK government must come up with 'credible' solutions

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Steve Humphreys
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Steve Humphreys
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Ireland's "stubborn" stance in the Brexit negotiations is not a "land grab" for Northern Ireland, Simon Coveney has said.

And the Foreign Affairs Minister stressed Britain did not have the right democratically to decide or shape Ireland's future.

He also warned ministers must take a strong position in the negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

In a hard-hitting speech during a session on Brexit at the Fine Gael national conference yesterday, he told delegates there could be no change to the regulatory or customs rules, which would negatively impact cross-border trade.

He called on the UK government to provide "credible and real answers" about what would happen to the 310-mile frontier.

"Britain does not have the right on its own to shape our future as Ireland in the context of the relationship that we have with the United Kingdom," he said

"It seems essential to us that there is no emergence of regulatory divergence from the rules of the internal market, or the customs union, which are necessary from meaningful North-South cooperation, or an all-Ireland economy, that is consistent with the Good Friday Agreement."

He stressed the Government would not waver from this "consistent, firm and stubborn position that Ireland has held for some time".

He said it was up to Ireland and Britain to work together to find solutions for the Border, which will not negatively impact the Good Friday Agreement.

"Brexit is the most important negotiation of our time. It is going to be what shapes our relationship with the European Union and the UK.

"We have an interwoven relationship with the UK which simply cannot be undone".

A border of concrete bollards and cars being stopped could never be allowed to re-emerge, he added.

"On this island we are in the business of building bridges not borders," he added.

During yesterday's session, he stressed there should be no "regulatory divergence" post Brexit, in order to keep a "functioning all-island economy".

He also warned a no-deal Brexit scenario would lead to significant levies, such as 60pc on beef.

"We need a future trading relationship with Britain. Our relationship and our economic relationship will remain strong."

Meanwhile, in his first speech to a Fine Gael national conference as party leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, reiterated his position that there could be no return to a border on the island of Ireland.

He also stressed that it was his priority that Ireland remain at the heart of Europe.

"I want to reassure all border communities that we are listening to you, we hear your concerns and we promise you that we will safeguard your rights, and all that we have achieved," he said.

Addressing his party faithful in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan, he repeated his insistence about the future of the open border.

"A shared space is not a lost space. So on this island, let's build bridges, not borders.

This came as MPs propping up Theresa May's UK government yesterday warned they "will not accept" a deal with Brussels that weakens Northern Ireland's relationship with the rest of the UK.

Nigel Dodds, who leads the Democratic Unionist Party's group of 10 MPs, said the European Union was failing "to engage in a meaningful fashion" over the border between Ireland and Ulster.

He also rejected a claim that Northern Ireland or the UK as a whole must continue to abide by the rules of the EU single market and customs union in order to avoid a "hard border".

Sunday Independent

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