Hard Border must not be self-fulfilling prophecy, says Coveney

Minister says Micheál Martin’s call to prepare for every Brexit eventuality is ‘unhelpful’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: said allowing customs teams in Ireland and the United Kingdom to discuss the effect of a border would send out the wrong signals. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: said allowing customs teams in Ireland and the United Kingdom to discuss the effect of a border would send out the wrong signals. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Government would be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by preparing for the imposition of a hard Border, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking to The Irish Times , Mr Coveney criticised comments made by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on the Government’s Brexit strategy as “unhelpful” and “not informed”.

Mr Martin has insisted every eventuality must be prepared for, including the possibility of a hard Brexit and a possible border introduction.

The Fianna Fáil leader also called for the Revenue Commissioners to continue its scoping work on the economic and trade implications arising from the British exit from the European Union.

However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs warned against allowing customs teams in Ireland and the United Kingdom discuss the effect of a border.

It would send all the wrong signals and would create an impression that the Government is willing to accept and facilitate a border, Mr Coveney stressed.

He said: “The focus is on political negotiation that would prevent the need for hard infrastructure on the Border of Ireland. Any divergence from that focus is unhelpful.”

Scoping work

Revenue last week released the contents of its initial scoping work outlining its view that a hard Border may be inevitable. It advised eight checkpoints and visible controls may be required.

The agency began this work before the result of the British referendum was known. It completed its work in September 2016, a few months after the referendum outcome.

The agency has stressed this was preliminary work and does not take account of key decisions that have been adopted since that juncture.

The decision to stand down Revenue was criticised by Mr Martin at his party’s ardfheis this weekend.

The Fianna Fáil leader said every outcome must be explored, even those that do not suit the political narrative.

Mr Martin said: “There is a sense out there that everyone is hoping that everything will turn out all right on the night kind of thing and at the end of the day it will all work itself out. We do have to prepare for every scenario.”

Revenue will not be asked to continue its scoping exercise, Mr Coveney said, but stressed the Government was preparing a “fall-back position”.

National interest

While he said he understood political points would be made at an ardfheis, the Minister insisted undermining the Government’s strategy is not in the national interest.

He added: “It is not helpful when Fianna Fáil is suggesting we should be prepared for a border with the British at this stage. If this happens, it would be a failure of political negotiations.”

The Government will continue to push for as close to the status quo as possible, the Minister added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will travel to Brussels this week for a European Union summit, where it is expected to be concluded that the required progress has not been achieved and it is not possible to move to the next round of discussions.

Speaking in Derry on Saturday, Mr Varadkar said he did not believe a deal could be achieved this week, but hoped the impasse could focus the minds of some.

The discussions have not developed but some progress has been achieved on the issue of the Irish Border and the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland.