Brexit: ‘personalised attacks’ are not the way forward, says Coveney

Tánaiste says the only people saying Johnson’s proposals will work are the DUP

Tánaiste Simon Coveney says if Mr Johnson’s proposals are the final offer then there will not be a deal. Photograph: Getty

Tánaiste Simon Coveney says if Mr Johnson’s proposals are the final offer then there will not be a deal. Photograph: Getty


Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said “personalised attacks” on individual politicians to try to get them to agree to British prime minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit proposals “are not the way forward.”

Such attacks are not going to force the Irish Government to change its position, he added. There should be less focus on personalities and more on the outcome.

Mr Johnson’s plan would see the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on October 31st and for Northern Ireland to leave the EU customs union - the bloc’s tariff-free trading area.

However, Northern Ireland would remain aligned with the EU’s single market rules - the bloc’s uniform set of standards - for all goods including manufactured goods as well as agricultural and food products.

This plan would essentially create two borders: a border for customs on the island of Ireland and a border to monitor EU single market rules on agricultural and food products between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

In the case of the latter border the Ireland executive and assembly would have to give their consent on an ongoing basis to be part of it.

On Friday Mr Coveney said the way forward was to face the truth, he told RTÉ radio’s Sean O’Rourke show.

The only people saying the current proposals from Mr Johnson will work are the DUP, said Mr Coveney.

Everyone else in Northern Ireland including business and farming representatives “are saying that it won’t work.”

“We’re trying to ensure that any deal will work for everyone, that there will be no veto, no kicking the can down the road. That the [Withdrawal Deal] can be implemented.”

Mr Coveney said just because Mr Johnson says something in the House of Commons, that does not mean it is fact. However, he acknowledged the proposals were “a step forward.”

The original deal proposed by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May - and agreed by EU negotiators - centred on the so-called backstop - the fall-back position avoiding a hard border. That would have effectively left Northern Ireland under EU trading rules.

Mr Coveney also said Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was preparing for a no deal Brexit Budget. “We have to assume the worst. To be cautious and careful, that there is the likelihood of no growth. The objective of the Government is to be cautious.”

Brexit negotiations have to continue on the basis of optimism and realism and on that basis he welcomed the prime minister’s proposals this week. But any proposals “have to actually work.

“If this is the final British proposal there won’t be a deal.”

The Tánaiste said the negotiations are between the UK and the EU. “That’s where the negotiations are at.”

There were many political leaders who want an input to the negotiations, he said, but all would have to be listened to “not just those who have a confidence and supply agreement with the British government.”

“The prime minister’s room to manoeuvre is very tight, but he boxed himself into that corner.”