Monday 15 July 2019

Two MEPs now face being blocked from taking seats

Coveney says hard Border won't be inevitable if the UK crashes out - but German MP insists it would

Disruption: Tánaiste Simon Coveney admitted election could be hit. Photo: Frank McGrath
Disruption: Tánaiste Simon Coveney admitted election could be hit. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Two Irish MEPs could be elected in May but unable to take up their seats in the European Parliament if Brexit is delayed, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has suggested.

Amid growing speculation that Brexit could be postponed until later this year or even 2020, Mr Coveney said such a move could a strange situation.

EU countries go to the polls in late May to elect a new parliament which was not expected to include members from the UK who are currently leaving on March 29.

A carve up of the UK seats was to see Ireland gain two MEPs, one extra in Dublin and Ireland South.

However, if an extension of Article 50 is sought by the UK it could have a significant impact on the elections.

Mr Coveney said there would be a question for the UK of whether or not they would be required to elect MEPs.

"I think they are issues the UK will have to think about and manage appropriately. Obviously it would be a strange thing to do to have a European election for a union you're about to leave," he said.

The Tánaiste added the extra seats assigned to Ireland "could be impacted on a temporary basis" until the UK officially exits the EU.

But he said Ireland "can put up with a bit of disruption in the European Parliament" if it helps ensure an orderly Brexit.

Meanwhile, during a Dáil debate on the Government's contingency plans, Mr Coveney staunchly rejected assumptions that a hard Border will have to be erected in a no-deal scenario.

He described Ireland's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and the EU single market as "competing responsibilities".

"We are not going to be supporting Border infrastructure even in a no-deal scenario," he said, adding the issue was "highly political and highly sensitive".

However, a senior German MP told the BBC yesterday Ireland would have no choice but to erect a border in the event the UK crashes out.

Gunther Krichbaum, chair of the EU affairs committee in the German parliament, said: "It will take time but order controls would be the consequence of a no-deal scenario."

He added: "It cannot be avoided because it's an outside border of the European Union."

Mr Coveney described the disunity in Westminster as "unbelievable" and said MPs arguing a border won't happen in any event are not being honest.

"That is a bogus argument because to simply assume that it won't happen because you don't want it to doesn't actually deliver what we need," he said.

Mr Coveney ruled out "technology or slick camera systems" as an alternative.

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokesman Lisa Chambers said everybody was "a little Brexit fatigued at this point" but we seemed "further away than ever before from a workable solution to the problem we face".

"The chaos in Westminster provides a stark contrast to the political stability and united front we have displayed here in Ireland," the Mayo TD said.

She added the UK government needed "to get its act together for all our sakes".

"People's livelihoods, their jobs, their future and potential opportunities are on the line, both here in the Republic and in the UK, and Northern Ireland is particularly vulnerable."

Irish Independent

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