Tuesday 22 October 2019

'There will be no checks near Border' - Tánaiste

Worry: Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Lisa Chambers. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Worry: Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Lisa Chambers. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has contradicted the Taoiseach's assertion that checks may have to be set up near the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Coveney now says he doesn't expect they'll be near the Border, although they will have to take place "somewhere".

Irish officials are back in talks with the EU Commission this week on what will happen on how the EU single market can be protected if the UK crashes out of the EU on October 31.

However, the Tánaiste can still not say when businesses will be told of the plan.

When asked when the public will be informed of when and where checks on the Border will take place, he said: "First of all, we won't sign up to any agreement that requires checks with the UK in terms of a permanent trading relationship linked to Brexit."

Mr Coveney said any checks would be a "temporary, emergency measure" to protect Ireland's place in the single market.

He said he would have clarity on the location of the checks before Britain leaves the EU on October 31.

"The response to a no-deal Brexit will be checks somewhere. I don't think they will be near the Border," he said.

Earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told a British-Irish Chamber event that checks near the Border were "a possibility we may have to live with for a period".

Ministers had yet another lengthy session on Brexit at yesterday's Cabinet meeting, including a discussion on how the country will react on November 1.

Mr Coveney said that for now the priority must be on trying to secure a deal - but planning for no deal continues.

He confirmed that while the British government has yet to put forward written proposals on the backstop, there have been discussions on possible ways forward.

It is understood these talks have included the idea that the backstop could apply to Northern Ireland only rather than the whole of the UK.

"We in the EU are open to a deal but it must achieve the aims of the backstop through a legally operable solution," he said. "We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven't seen any written proposals to date.Just because Boris Johnson says the backstop needs to go, doesn't meant everyone else will respond positively to that."

Mr Coveney said if the UK wants the backstop to be dumped then Ireland's demand for an alternative is a "perfectly reasonable request".

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers called on the Government to give the public more information on what will happen if a deal cannot be secured.

She said ministers were arguing that people who were asking questions were not 'wearing the green jersey' - but they "need to level with citizens, they need to become transparent".

"The question now is where they [checks] will happen, how they will be conducted, and how the Government is going to manage the 300-plus Border crossings on this island," she said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said businesses are already feeling a downturn.

"We need to know how much money we can deploy to sustain jobs in the short or medium term during this crisis," he said.

Irish Independent

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