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'This is not about money, sweeteners or being paid-off' - Simon Coveney warns Brexit hardliners trying to 'rewrite history'

 

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Simon Coveney (Jacob King/PA)

Simon Coveney (Jacob King/PA)

Simon Coveney (Jacob King/PA)

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has warned that some in the UK are now attempting to "rewrite history" over their misleading Brexit claims about Ireland.

His warning came as he insisted that anyone who believed Ireland was adopting a cash-for-compromise position over the Brexit deal and the Irish back-stop with the British Government were "not plugged in to Ireland."

He also rejected some UK reports that other EU countries were now putting pressure on Ireland to compromise and agree a deal.

"This is not about money - if people still think it is they are really not plugged in to the Irish mindset or to the history on this island," he said.

"This is not about money, sweeteners or being paid-off or anything like that.

"For people to try to shift that debate, to suggest that Ireland is the one being difficult or intransigent or stubborn on this, I think is trying to rewrite history, to be quite frank.

"We are trying to ensure there is no prospect of the imposition of future border infrastructure on this island between north and south because of the corrosive impact on relationships and politics if that would happen.

"It would fundamentally disrupt the all-island economy which, in many ways, has been the reinforcement of peace and normality on this island for the past 21 years."

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The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Photo: PA

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Photo: PA

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Photo: PA

Mr Coveney refused to comment specifically on allegations from Conservative MP Steven Baker, the Chairman of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG), that Ireland was being intransigent over a Brexit deal and trying to exploit the situation in Westminster.

"I am not going to get into commenting on what individuals say in London," he said.

"From my experience, a lot of the commentary is inaccurate and, quite frankly, does not understand the complexity of what we are trying to solve here.

"There is no pressure coming from other EU capitals on Ireland - all of the pressure is in London right now and that is where it should be.

"It is a British Prime Minister who has decided to ask for significant change to a withdrawal agreement which all 28 governments in the EU - including the UK government - signed up to.

"He is asking for change and we are happy to facilitate that as long as we can find a way of protecting the core issues which the last withdrawal agreement protected - on the Irish border.

"We have to ensure that we can look people in the eye and say that they are not going to face fundamental disruption to an all-island economy through the re-imposition of border infrastructure.

"That is what the back-stop does - it solves that problem at least on a temporary basis until we can find a more permanent solution."

"If you are going to ask to remove the back-stop and replace it with something else, that something else has got to do a comprehensive job and deliver the same outcomes as the back-stop."

Mr Coveney also dismissed a reported document drawn up by Michael Gove which highlights so-called Irish pressure points.

"There is nothing new here for us - we have been talking about the down side of a no-deal Brexit for many, many months," he said.

"If a no-deal Brexit were to happen, it would be a lose, lose and lose for everybody - for the UK, for Ireland and for the EU.

"That is why we are so focused on trying to resolve differences, trying to get a Brexit deal agreed so we can move on to the next stage of Brexit in a controlled and managed way. To avoid a lot of the disruption which will undoubtedly flow from a no-deal.

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Michael Gove. Photo: Reuters

Michael Gove. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Michael Gove. Photo: Reuters

"I think a no-deal is particularly difficult for Northern Ireland - it is challenging for the Republic of Ireland too and certainly for the UK as a whole.

"Our focus this week in particular - because it is really coming to a head now - is to work with Michel Barner, his taskforce and our counterparts in the UK to see if we can find a way forward.

"We made it very clear last week that Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson's proposals were a step in the right direction but, particularly on customs, there is a need, I think, for further development of that proposal in order to get a deal done this week.

"We want to support that. I probably will be in Brussels tomorrow evening to talk with Mr Barnier about that."

Mr Coveney insisted that a deal could still be agreed.

"I think it is possible. Last week I was asked whether Brexit being agreed before October 31 was 'mission impossible' - I don't believe it is. I think this can be done. But there needs to be an evolution of the British Prime Minister's proposal from last week in the areas of customs and around consent and consultation for institutions in Northern Ireland.

"I think if we can work on those two areas, we can get a deal and that will be our focus."

Online Editors