Thursday 22 August 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Difficult talks' start today with France running out of patience'


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It all goes back to when Transport Minister Shane Ross and Tánaiste Simon Coveney were caught on tape discussing the prospect of Border checks in the event of no deal.

During their conversation, the Tánaiste confirmed a form of checks will be introduced in a no deal, "but we can't get into where they'll be at this stage".

"But once you start talking about checks anywhere near the Border, people will start delving into that and all of a sudden we'll be the Government that reintroduced a physical Border on the island of Ireland," he said.

More than two months later very little has changed.

Leo Varadkar has forever argued that the only way to prevent a hard Border is the backstop. But he also puts forward the idea that 'difficult discussion' can ensure frictionless trade continues in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

We were told those talks would not take place until after the meteor hits - but last week the Taoiseach admitted there have been some talks at official level. Extraordinarily though, he told the Dáil there is "nothing to share" and "no papers or documents".

The Irish Independent understands the discussions are a bit more advanced than Mr Varadkar would like us to think. Technology is being looked at as one option to limit the disruption, but major questions remain about how to maintain livestock standards on both sides of the Border.

And today Mr Varadkar travels to the Élysée Palace in France where tough talking will be done. Irish Government sources are ultra keen to portray the trip to Paris and Angela Merkel's jaunt to Dublin on Thursday as positive events.

The solidarity shown by the EU countries throughout the Brexit process has been phenomenal.

But the French are fed up with the British intransigence and worried what impact a long extension might have on their own political system.

Macron was elected on the back of a pro-European message but his star has fallen far in the interim. And he knows there are plenty of right-wing groups in France that would love to hang their election campaigns on Brexit.

Despite mixed messages over Merkel's position on Ireland, it does appear she's on our side and likely to back a long delay to Brexit. But she will be taking no chances either.

The single market must be protected. Everybody, including Mr Varadkar, says so. What they won't tell us is how.

And that's a risky position for the Irish Government to maintain. It will not be thanked if the public here learn about 'alternative arrangements' or 'Border security by any other name' from outside this island.

The truth is that the Government is hoping against hope that the crisis in London can resolve itself.

Irish Independent

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