Informal British solutions fall short of backstop, says Tánaiste
‘We haven’t seen anything that works,’ says source, amid claims UK ideas insufficient
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: “We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven’t seen any written proposals to date.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has discussed informally ideas about a replacement for the backstop with British ministers, he said on Tuesday, but no ideas which could come close to replacing the backstop have been suggested by the British, The Irish Times has learned.
Mr Coveney again appealed to the British government to present formal written proposals that can be negotiated with the EU.
The Government has been careful to avoid any formal negotiations with the UK, insisting that they take place in Brussels with Michel Barnier.
However, Mr Coveney revealed an intensification of informal exchanges with the British government as London sought to remove the backstop from the withdrawal agreement.
“We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven’t seen any written proposals to date,” Mr Coveney said. However, he said there were significant informal contacts on the shape of a possible new deal.
“I’ve met [Brexit secretary] Steve Barclay, I’ve met [foreign secretary] Dominic Raab, I’ve spoken to Michael Gove at length. I meet and speak with [northern secretary] Julian Smith on a regular basis. We had dinner last in Dublin and spoke for two or three hours,” Mr Coveney told reporters at Government Buildings.
“So of course there are conversations, as you would expect. Exploring concepts, what might work, what won’t work,” he said.
Government sources were tight-lipped on the “concepts” Mr Coveney discussed with British ministers, but it is thought in London they involve an all-Ireland zone for food and animal products and efforts to avoid checks with extensive measures such as pre-clearance and trusted trader schemes to avoid checks on goods or confine them at a business level.
A spokesman for Mr Coveney said the negotiations were between the EU and the UK, and that no proposals that could replace the backstop had yet been tabled.
However, it is understood British ministers have not made any suggestions that could come close to replacing the backstop for the Irish Government. “We haven’t seen anything that works,” said one source, while another person briefed on the issue said none of the British suggestions were sufficient.
Legality of proroguing
Meanwhile UK prime minister Boris Johnson has told Britain’s highest court it cannot rule on whether his decision to suspend parliament for five weeks was unlawful. He made the assertion in a written submission as 11 judges in London’s supreme court began to consider two separate challenges to his decision to advise Queen Elizabeth to prorogue parliament until October 14th.
“The courts have no jurisdiction to enforce political conventions. Although they can recognise the operation of a political convention in deciding a legal question, such as the extent of a duty of confidentiality, they cannot give legal rulings on its operation or scope, because those matters are determined within the political world,” he said in a joint statement with Richard Keen, the advocate general for Scotland.
The court has scheduled three days of hearings as it considers two challenges, from businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller and from Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry and others.