DUP accuses Government of ‘Dublin Says No’ mentality
UK financial ‘sweeteners’ for Border customs checks not of interest to Republic, says Coveney
DUP MP Sammy Wilson: ‘The Irish prime minister must realise that we will not support Northern Ireland being held to ransom by either Dublin or Brussels.’ File photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty
Financial “sweeteners” from London to Ireland to carry out customs checks on the Border after the United Kingdom quits the European Union are of no interest to the Government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
“This is not about money. And if people still think it is then they are really not plugged into the Irish mindset or to the history of this island,” he said.
“This is not about money or sweeteners or being paid off or anything like that,” said Mr Coveney, who insisted that the Government’s position is about preserving the stability of Northern Ireland.
The Government is “ trying to ensure” that checkpoints, on or near the Border are avoided, and not allowed to have a “corrosive impact on relationships and politics” that have improved since the Belfast Agreement.
Mr Coveney’s remarks come as the Democratic Unionist Party accused the Government of adopting a “Dublin Says No” mentality.
“It seems the ‘not an inch’ approach in Dublin will lead to no deal. How times have changed. Its now a case of ‘Dublin Says No’. The DUP has worked with [Boris Johnson] to place a reasonable proposal on the table. It may not be perfect but it’s a fair deal,” said DUP MP Sammy Wilson.
“It recognises our unique situation and respects the referendum result,” he said. The DUP wants a sensible deal which works for every part of the United Kingdom as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. In every negotiation there must be give and take.The Irish prime minister must realise that we will not support Northern Ireland being held to ransom by either Dublin or Brussels,” he added.
A report in Monday’s edition of the London Times claims Michael Gove’s Brexit Operations Committee has compiled a list of pressure points that could be imposed on Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
These would include warning that the Republic could suffer a shortage of medicines, potential loss of fishing rights off the North of Ireland, disruption of the movement of horses between the Republic and UK and traffic back-ups at Holyhead in Wales from customs checks.
Responding to the report, Mr Coveney said there was “nothing new here for us. We’ve been talking about the downside of a no-deal Brexit for many, many months. If a no-deal Brexit were to happen, it’ll be a lose, lose, lose for everybody – for the UK, for Ireland, for the EU. All of the pressure is in London right now and that is where it should be because it is a British prime minister who has decided to ask for a significant change to a withdrawal agreement.”
He added: “All 28 governments in the EU, including the British government, signed up to [it] . He is asking for change; we are happy to facilitate that as long as we can find a way of protecting the core issues.”
Meanwhile, the EU’s point-by-point rejection of Mr Johnson’s Brexit proposals for the Border has been revealed in leaked documents.
The disclosure follows the prime minister’s claim on Monday that he had not yet heard the EU’s thoughts on the legal text tabled by Downing Street, under which a customs border would be reimposed on the island of Ireland.
Under the draft text, which the UK has not published in full, Northern Ireland would stay in the EU’s single market for goods and electricity if Stormont consents, giving the DUP a veto before the arrangement comes into force and then every four years.
The confidential report, obtained by The Guardian, chronicling the latest negotiations reveals:
- The British have been warned that the proposed Stormont veto provides the DUP with an opportunity to block the all-Ireland regulatory zone from ever materialising.
- The proposals for a customs border were said to risk a major disruption of the all-Ireland economy. EU negotiators have pointed out that it has been rejected by groups representing Northern Irish business.
- The UK is seeking a fallback of no controls, checks and border infrastructure, even if the DUP vetoes Northern Ireland’s alignment with the single market. The bloc’s internal market would be left wide open for abuse, the European commission has said in its rejection of the proposal.
- The UK’s proposal leaves it up to a joint EU-UK committee to work out how to avoid customs checks and infrastructure near the Border once there are two customs territories and sets of rules on the island of Ireland, without offering a plan B if no such solution is agreed.
- The UK has called for reform of the common transit convention so as to avoid the need for new infrastructure in the shape of transit offices on either side of the Border for the scanning of goods that have passed through multiple territories. Brussels has refused as it would lead other non-EU countries to seek similar exemptions, endangering the internal market.
- The text affords what is seen as an unacceptable wholesale exemption for small and medium-sized businesses from customs duties and processes, but it fails to provide details on how to then combat smuggling.
- On VAT, the British negotiators were told that the proposals fail to offer any solutions as to how to avoid payments and checks at the Border.
The EU’s hard-hitting rebuff was delivered to David Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, on Friday and Monday, according to the leaked report, which was compiled following a briefing of EU diplomats by the commission. - Additional reporting The Guardian