British government has embraced ‘fanciful’ ideas on how to solve border issue – Coveney

‘Fundamental misreading of Irish mindset’ on backstop compromise, says Tánaiste

Ireland remains ‘laser-focused’ on the need to find ‘real and honest solutions’ to the challenges presented by Brexit, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said in New York on Wednesday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ireland remains ‘laser-focused’ on the need to find ‘real and honest solutions’ to the challenges presented by Brexit, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said in New York on Wednesday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney strongly defended the Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations, accusing the British government of embracing “fanciful” ideas about how to solve the Border conundrum.

While insisting that Ireland was working towards securing a deal, he said the British government was effectively “transferring a problem to Ireland for the foreseeable future” which would make Ireland become “collateral damage” in the Brexit process.

“Now is the time to deal with the border question.”

Mr Coveney was speaking at a breakfast meeting with a group of prominent Irish-Americans organized by the Irish consulate on the fringes of the UN general assembly in New York.

Outlining the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, and the absence from London of a workable alternative to the backstop, he said: “We are confronting the British government with these realities and we will not sign a Brexit deal unless these realities are recognised.”

He said that there is a deal to be done “but it’s a matter of political will.”

He said there had been a “fundamental misreading of the Irish mindset” on the issue of how far Ireland was prepared to compromise on the backstop issue, underlining the fact that no alternative had been presented by the British government.

He said the Government had “no alternative agenda,” but simply wanted to secure the Good Friday Agreement, and had spent significant time and money on an issue that had arisen over a choice made by the United Kingdom.

“Northern Ireland is not the same as the rest of the United Kingdom… it is unique in so many ways,” he stressed.

Ireland remains “laser-focused” on the need to find “real and honest solutions” to the challenges presented by Brexit, Mr Coveney said. He added that we cannot “kick issues down the road for further discussions”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who addressed the United Nations general assembly on Ireland’s commitment to the UN sustainable development goals, said the position remained that the EU wanted to see workable, written solutions from the British government by the first week of October.

“If we are going to be in a position to finalise things at the European Council on the 17th, 18th of October, we are going to need to really tee that up in the week or two before,” he said.

Mr Varadkar confirmed there would need for checks and controls if Britain left without a deal, though he said it was still possible that the British government could have a “change of heart” about the single market and its relationship with the EU. “But certainly in the event of no-deal if the UK leaves the EU and it leaves on WTO terms well then it will be necessary to have checks and controls at the ports and the airports and some near the border as well, but that will be their decision not ours.”

Mr Varadkar on Thursday begins a two-day visit to Los Angeles in a bid to promote trade and investment between Ireland and the west coast of the United States. Mr Varadkar, who will be opening a new consulate in the city, said that the focus of the trip would be on the creative industries in particular, noting that it was worth about €1 billion a year to the Irish economy.

“The number of people working in that sector has doubled in the last ten years and we want to double it again,” he said.