'We will work with whoever British PM is' - Simon Coveney says Ireland will stay out of leadership debate
TANAISTE Simon Coveney vowed that Ireland will work with Boris Johnson or whoever else wins the Conservative Party leadership to deliver the best Brexit outcome for Ireland, the UK and EU.
Mr Coveney, speaking in Cork at the Oceans Wealth conference, warned that Ireland cannot get involved in the Tory leadership contest which officially began on Monday.
However, the Cork TD put down a marker that the Brexit deal hammered out between Mrs May and Brussels is not open for renegotiation - no matter what Tory leadership challengers may claim.
"It is a negotiation that is closed," Mr Coveney said.
Mr Johnson, a former Mayor of London, is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Mrs May but faces stiff challenges from a number of Theresa May's current and former Cabinet ministers including Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Sajid Javid.
The Tory leadership battle will see the race whittled down to two candidates with the Conservative Party membership then voting on who they want.
"It has been going on for a while now," Mr Coveney joked in reference to the battle to succeed Mrs May.
"But we are going to stay out of this debate - this is for the Conservative Party and for British politics to decide."
"We have always been very careful during the Brexit negotiations to stay out of internal British debate."
"Our job is to represent Ireland, Irish interests and to protect Irish interests through the complexity of the Brexit negotiations."
"Unfortunately, there is still a lot of uncertainty around those Brexit negotiations."
"Depending on who the next Prime Minister is, of course we will work with that person to try to bring an end to the uncertainty in a way that recognises the Irish and EU concerns."
In reference to questions about leadership favourite, Mr Johnson, the Tanaiste vowed that Ireland will work with whoever succeeds Mrs May.
"Of course we will - we will work with whoever the British Prime Minister is."
But Mr Coveney said the agreement hammered out between Mrs May and Brussels remains the deal on the table.
One Tory leadership challenger, Jeremy Hunt, has claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him the deal was open to renegotiation to Mrs May's successor.
"I think the EU position is very clear," Mr Coveney said.
"The Withdrawal Agreement took two and a half years to negotiate. It is a compromise on all sides. It is a negotiation that is closed."
"The EU has always said it is willing to redesign and rewrite the future relationship declaration which of course will determine the kind of permanent future relationship between the EU and the UL."
"Of course we hope that it will be the closest possible relationship."