Brexit: Donohoe seeks to reassure unionists over Border backstop

Minister says backstop aims to provide certainty to firms and communities in Ireland

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has sought to reassure unionists on the Brexit backstop. Photograph: PA

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has sought to reassure unionists on the Brexit backstop. Photograph: PA

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has sought to reassure unionists over the Northern Ireland backstop, saying he understood the fear members of the community have raised.

However, speaking at the DCU Brexit institute in Dublin on Monday, he emphasised the importance Dublin places on the deal agreed between the European Union and the UK government led by former prime minister Theresa May.

“The Government takes these concerns very seriously, as we do the concerns of everyone who is troubled by Brexit and its potential impacts on both parts of our island,” he said.

However, the backstop “should not be viewed as a challenge to unionism”, but, instead, should be seen as an attempt “to provide certainty to businesses and communities on both sides of the Border”.

He added that it would allow people to continue to operate and go about their daily lives as they do today.

“It is not the same as Northern Ireland staying in the EU,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, he said that work with the European Commission had “intensified with the goal of at least avoiding physical infrastructure at the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

Mr Donohoe’s comments come after two British ministers suggested over the weekend that progress had been made on the thorny issue of the Northern Irish backstop.

Home secretary Priti Patel and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay insisted that a October 31st deal is still possible, hinting that it could see Northern Ireland more closely aligned to the EU, but falling short of a backstop.

However, Mr Donohoe said a solution “has to recognise the unique geographical and historical situation of Northern Ireland”.

In concluding remarks, the Minister said Brexit and a shift from openness and free trade to economic nationalism posed “a new national question” for the State.

“I believe this is a new national question we are facing today and that the Brexit process and the profound challenges of political economy, diplomacy and geopolitics that it confronts us with compel us to seek answers.”

An extension to the negotiations with London “would need to be for a particular reason”, he said.

“From my point of view, if an extension is granted, it then just pushes the point of uncertainty then right into 2020.