Tanaiste: Ireland 'hopeful' outline agreement on border can be agreed in Brexit talks on Monday
IRELAND is "hopeful" an outline agreement on the Northern Ireland border can be hammered out in critical Brexit talks on Monday.
The EU has already warned the UK that phase two Brexit talks will not be sanctioned if Ireland is unhappy with the proposed post-Brexit border solution - despite the UK having offered to pay the EU some €60bn as part of its exit deal.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has now bluntly reminded the UK, after a week of stinging criticism of Ireland in the tabloid press, that Ireland stands to be the UK's best friend throughout the entire Brexit process.
"Let me be very clear about this I believe that Ireland will probably be Britain's closest friend in the context of the outcome that Britain
wants in phase two," he said.
"We want seamless trade with Britain - a strong British economy is good for Ireland. We want to be helpful in that regard."
"But we do have to insist on sufficient progress in terms of clarity and credibility around how we are going to solve the border challenge
in the context of Brexit."
"We will be stubborn but fair on that issue.
"Otherwise, as I have said many times, this is a leap into the dark for us - to move to phase two - and I believe I owe it to the Irish
people to ensure that that we don't do that.
"Hopefully we will get a result that everybody on the island of Ireland will see as a positive step forward on Monday."
The Tánaiste warned that it was vital everyone understands the consistent position Dublin has taken on the border issue and its
"I am very, very clear on that and I will continue to be," he said.
"This is about protecting what has been created over the last 20 years which has resulted in largely an invisible border on the island of
Ireland and the impact of that on communities on both sides of it has been hugely positive."
"We do not want to go backwards and the Irish Government simply will not allow it.
"I am hopeful we can bring everyone on board.
"If we can get agreement with the British Government, that is who we are negotiating with here, through the EU taskforce, hopefully we will
because actually Britain and Ireland want the same thing to protect the status quo, I hope we can make sufficient progress on Monday, be
able to move on the phase two (of the Brexit talks)."
Mr Coveney also said there were more common positions between the Government and the DUP than differences.
"Arlene Foster wrote to all the heads of state in the EU and, if you look at her letter, we actually don't disgree on most things," he
"I don't believe the DUP want a hard border, I believe the DUP want to protect the Good Friday Agreement, the DUP wants to see north-south co-operation in the future - that is good for everybody.
"It is good for unionism, it is good for nationalism, it is good for people living on both sides of the border.
"Of course there is a bit of political tension around the pace at which decisions need to be made here."
"I think it has been unfortunate we haven't had an executive in place in Northern Ireland where we could have been dealing with a first and
deputy first minister as part of these negotiations - but that has not been possible.
"I am not going to respond to or rise to individual criticisms of me that I have heard over recent days.
"My message is clear - we want to listen to all political parties in Northern Ireland including the DUP but not exclusively to any one party.
"There is a broad spectrum of view and concern across both unionist and nationalist communities in Northern Ireland and communities south of the border.
"We are trying to listen to all of those concerns and make sure that the actions we take on behalf of the island of Ireland are responsible ones."
"I would stand over everything we have done to date.
"Unfortunately, that has triggered some criticism of me and people accusing me of having other agendas which is completely not true.
"What I am looking for here is effectively a protection of the status quo - not looking to use that for any other purposes or constitutional
issues for the island of Ireland."
He acknowledged that Monday will be a day of historic significance for Ireland in terms of the phase one Brexit talks.
"I've been talking about the date of December 14 and 15 as being the decision dates but actually Monday is because without progress on
Monday, Donald Tusk will not bring recommendations to the leaders summit the following week for decisions on whether or not we are ready to move to phase two on Brexit."
"So the British Prime Minister goes to Brussels on Monday, she meets Michelle Barnier and John Claude Juncker....then she goes on to meet Donald Tusk for lunch.
"So these are important meetings for Ireland, these are important meetings in the context of Brexit, and these are very important meetings for Britain.
"There's been a lot of coverage of Ireland's position, its stance and so on, but what we are doing here is we are holding to a consistent
position that Ireland has had for months - that we want to try and protect the interests of the island of Ireland north and south."