Saturday 24 August 2019

Boris Johnson's approach to Brexit talks 'very unhelpful', warns Tánaiste Simon Coveney

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a previous meeting.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a previous meeting.
Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith. Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP/Getty Images
Politician Doug Beattie

David Milliken and Alistair Smout

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's approach to Brexit talks was "very unhelpful" and would not lead to an agreement.

Mr Johnson told Britain's parliament on Thursday that he did not want to retain the so-called post-Brexit 'backstop' that would preserve an open border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland in the event of longer-term trade talks collapsing.

"The statements of the British Prime Minister yesterday in the House of Commons were very unhelpful to this process," Mr Coveney told reporters on Friday after meeting Britain's new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, in Belfast.

"He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations, and I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that," Coveney added.

At the event in Belfast, Mr Smith held a series of separate meetings with the five main parties in Stormont.

Politician Doug Beattie

Speaking after the meeting, the Ulster Unionists' Doug Beattie said: "He does need time to put his feet under the table, but he doesn't have a lot of time, he doesn't have weeks, he can't sit there and pontificate about what his next move is.

"He needs to ramp up the talks process and give a very clear structure to that talks process, and he needs to give us a direction of travel, which we have been sadly lacking over the last few months and weeks.

"We made it absolutely clear to him that no matter what his relationship is with the DUP, he cannot be a sop to their tantrums and cannot be meek and mild in front of Sinn Fein's intransigence. He needs to bang their hands together.

"What he cannot do is ignore the smaller parties and think he's going to bounce us at the very end of this process and expect us to jump in.

"There is an issue of governance and an issue of transparency, and we want to see those addressed properly.

"As Secretary of State he needs to be proactive and, if he is not, he will fall in exactly the same way as the last Secretary of State fell."

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's Brexit deadline 'not bright', warns Bertie Ahern


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