Wednesday 16 October 2019

Irish Government and EU Brexit taskforce are 'of one mind' when it comes to border guarantees

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Shona Murray

The Irish Government and EU Brexit taskforce are “of one mind” on the draft legal text detailing the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, says Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.

The text will spell out in legally binding format, the agreement made by the EU and UK last December which protects the invisible Irish border.

Mr Coveney was speaking in Brussels where he had a special meeting with EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier and his deputy Sabine Weyend.

“It’s true to say that the Irish government and the Barnier taskforce are of one mind in terms of how the text should look this week” said Mr Coveney.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement will be published by the EU on Wednesday, and both Dublin and Brussels are bracing themselves for a backlash from Britain.

The contents of the draft treaty not go down well with arch-Brexiteers.

It will be seen by some - including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - as pushing the UK in to a corner where it will have to keep European rules and regulations even after they leave the EU.

The text will outline the three options agreed by all sides late last year, which commits Britain to ensuring there will be no need for a hard, physical border separating The North from the Irish State.

The first option or Option “A” will be an arrangement which keeps Britain and the EU’s relationship almost as close as it is now. This is unlikely because Britain says it is leaving the customs union and the Single Market.

Option “B” is for a solution to emerge through the use of a range of technical apparatus such as camera, barcodes and registration.

No detail has been forthcoming by Britain on this yet.

Option “C” or “Regulatory alignment” : this means the Britain will continue to follow the EU rules and regulations of the single market and customs union necessary to protect cross border cooperation and the all-island economy.

It is within the tone of Option B where tension will arise as there appears to be some confusion as to what “regulatory alignment” actually commits Britain to.

“It will be faithful and true to the political agreement that was made in December and translating that effectively in to a legal text that can be a draft withdrawal agreement from the EU’s perspective”, said Mr Coveney.

Mr Tanaiste was asked whether he could understand that the contents of the agreement could be seen as putting pressure of Prime Minister Theresa May while she is already having difficulty building cohesion over this very divisive issue.

“We’re not looking to try to put pressure on anybody; we’re simply looking to translate in to a clear legal language a text that has already been agreed politically before Christmas”, said the tanaiste.

"We’re happy with the Irish element" and "I think people will judge for themselves when they see it on Wednesday and I think they will agree it’s an accurate reflection of what was politically agreed in December", he said.

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