Brexit: Coveney cautions against assumption of imminent deal

‘Breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot,’ Tánaiste says

 Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, says ‘intensive efforts are continuing’. Photograph:Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo/Reuters

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, says ‘intensive efforts are continuing’. Photograph:Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo/Reuters

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has urged caution over people assuming that a breakthrough is imminent in the impasse in Brexit negotiations over the future of the Irish Border.

Addressing speculation that a possible deal was close, Mr Coveney said it should not be assumed that just because the UK cabinet agrees on something that an overall deal has been agreed with the EU.

“’I would urge caution that an imminent breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot,” he told a Ireland Canada Business Association conference in Dublin.

“Repeatedly, as people seem to make the same mistake over and over again: assuming that if the British cabinet agree something, well then that’s it then, then everything is agreed.”

Negotiations between the EU and UK have stalled over the so-called backstop, the fall-back option that would maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK departs the EU without securing an overarching trade deal that avoids a physical checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Mr Coveney described the Brexit talks as a negotiation that required agreement not just by the British government but with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier who represents the other 27 EU countries.

“While of course we want progress to be made - we want it to be made as quickly as possible because time is moving on - I would urge caution that people don’t get carried away on the back of rumour in the coming days,” he said at the conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters at Iveagh House.

“That being said, intensive efforts are continuing this week to try and find a basis for agreement.”

Speaking to an audience that included Canada’s ambassador to the EU Dan Costello and to Ireland Kevin Vickers, Mr Coveney said Ireland and Canada were “highly globalised economies” and “strong allies” in resisting a growing trend against a multilateral rules-based world order.

The threat was “coming from unexpected quarters and our closest neighbours,” he said, referring to the uncertainty around cross-border trade in the North America as a result of the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies and the UK’s decision to leave the EU single market.

This created “a unique and unprecedented challenge” to Ireland, he said.