Monday 18 February 2019

UK request Ireland helps resolve border backstop with technology is 'wishful thinking' - Coveney

Simon Coveney called a suggestion to replace the backstop with technology 'wishful thinking'
Photo: Clare Keogh
Simon Coveney called a suggestion to replace the backstop with technology 'wishful thinking' Photo: Clare Keogh
John Downing

John Downing

The UK request that Ireland help them replace the border backstop with technological devices doing checks is “wishful thinking,” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney welcomed news that UK Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Northern Ireland on Tuesday - but he said that her efforts to get changes to the main EU-UK divorce deal are not possible.

“I think the people in Northern Ireland need a lot of reassurance from the British government right now,” Mr Coveney said welcoming news of the visit.

The Tánaiste was speaking after talks in Brussels and he banished speculation that Ireland and or the EU are ready to offer a change to London on the border backstop.

The arrangement – which guarantees no return of the border in Ireland by keeping the North inside the EU customs union and close to single market product rules – is a major obstacle to the EU-UK draft divorce deal getting the necessary ratification in the London parliament.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, is expected to begin lobbying Brussels and the other EU capitals seeking backing for proposals on deploying technology to minimise border controls. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has held out hopes of more reassurances for Mrs May – but also ruled out any re-opening of the main Brexit deal as sought by London.

In Brussels the Tánaiste said the backstop arrangement took many hours of talks over a period of a year to complete. And it was legally credible and workable, though  it could be replaced if something better was later agreed.

“I have yet to hear of any new thinking which goes beyond what has already been tested,” Mr Coveney said.

The Tánaiste said the real issue was that many MPs at Westminster were trying to replace an agreement with “wishful thinking”.

Mr Coveney again said that Brexit backstop provisions can be replaced by other devices in upcoming talks on a future EU-UK relationship after Brexit – “provided those measures work.”

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