Coveney accuses UK government of Brexit ‘revisionism’

Tánaiste also warns of ‘very difficult’ summer of talks ahead amid current impasse

Simon Coveney gave the Cabinet a Brexit update in advance of the visit to Dublin of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has accused the British government of "revisionism" on what it has already agreed on how to avoid a hard border, as he warned the Cabinet to expect a "very difficult" summer in the Brexit talks.

Ministers discussed the current impasse in the Brexit negotiations at their weekly meeting, and ahead of the visit of a number of senior European Union figures to Dublin this week. Their visits are also in advance of the next meeting of the European Council next week.

Mr Coveney gave the Cabinet a Brexit update in advance of the visit to Dublin of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator. It is also expected a phone call will be arranged with senior Government figures and European Council president Donald Tusk later this week.

The Government had initially wanted "sufficient progress" on the Border backstop arrangement to be made by next week's summit but has accepted that is now unlikely to happen until October. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has even suggested this may not happen until November.


Trade rules

The backstop arrangement – under which Britain has committed to maintaining EU customs and trade rules in Northern Ireland in the absence of any overall agreement in order to maintain a soft border – is one of the main negotiating difficulties between the EU and the UK.

Sources said the Cabinet was also told that a strong statement of support for Ireland will also be issued by the rest of the EU27 at the June summit. Senior figures in Dublin have suggested that the UK’s transition period after Brexit formally takes effect next March may be threatened.

Meanwhile, European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said patience with the British government was "wearing out" in Brussels over delays in proposing solutions for how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

The British government did not have a “coherent position” on what kind of Brexit deal they wanted, which has posed problems for EU negotiators, Mr Hogan told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday.

Also in Brussels, the Brexit negotiators from the UK and the Commission Article 50 Task Force last night published a 14-page paper listing the areas on which they have reached agreement and where agreement is still needed in the draft withdrawal agreement. It is likely to form the basis of the report of the EU chief negotiator to next week's EU summit.


On the Northern Ireland protocol it notes that most of the work has been completed on the cross-Border bodies and programmes that have to be safeguarded and promises that "the finalised results of the North-South mapping exercise on cross-Border co-operation will be published shortly".

The paper says “both parties recognise” that work on the backstop “requires provisions in relation to customs and regulatory alignment”.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times