Monday 21 May 2018

There will be no UK Brexit deal if Irish border issue is not resolved - Simon Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney
John Downing

John Downing

There will be no formal “Withdrawal Agreement” between the EU and UK if the Irish border issue is not resolved, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil.

The Foreign Affairs Minister has brushed aside doubts raised by Fianna Fáil about a draft deal agreed between London and Brussels on Monday.

Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokesman, Stephen Donnelly, said there were serious doubts about the value of the deal.  He said the Taoiseach had described the emerging agreement last December as “cast-iron, bullet-proof and rock solid.”

But ever since then the British government had been busy rowing back from the deal and casting doubt upon it.  Mr Donnelly argued that Britain had merely agreed another questionable form of words so the Brexit talks could continue to the next phase about future EU-UK trade relations.

“What I saw yesterday was a political fudge to allow the talks continue and move onto trade," Mr Donnelly told the Dáil.

“Will the Government seek to pause trade discussions if sufficient progress is not being made on issues pertaining to Ireland the avoidance of a hard border?" the Wicklow TD asked.

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Deputy Stephen Donnelly

Replying for the Government, the Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he regretted Fianna Fáil’s change from consultation with Government to one of opposition on Brexit.  He also insisted that the deal on Monday represented “big progress for Ireland.”

Mr Coveney said Ireland was the first country to seek a transition period to allow an orderly EU exit for Britain.  It was logical to fix that at December 2020 when the EU’s seven-year funding arrangements expire – but that transition period could yet be extended.

He said the so-called “backstop arrangement” was a final fall-back to ensure there would be no “hard border” in Ireland. But better arrangements could yet be agreed.

“We know there is a floor below which we cannot fall,” Mr Coveney said.

“I think you should inform yourself on what is progress and what is not,” the Tánaiste told Mr Donnelly.

Mr Coveney said if there was “no backstop” – there would be “no Withdrawal Treaty.”  He also insisted that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister also suggested that the pressure was now on the UK in the Brexit talks. “If anything the political pressure is certainly not on this Government,” Mr Coveney said.

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