Irish Government welcomes substance, if not the tone, of Theresa May’s statement

Dublin points to influence of Tory party politics but says UK’s position is unchanged

Dublin believes Theresa May’s domestic political needs, especially the forthcoming Conservative Party conference, influenced the tone of her remarks of her Downing Street statement on Friday. Photograph: Paul Grover/Pool Photo

Dublin believes Theresa May’s domestic political needs, especially the forthcoming Conservative Party conference, influenced the tone of her remarks of her Downing Street statement on Friday. Photograph: Paul Grover/Pool Photo

 

The Irish Government has welcomed Theresa May’s commitment to bring forward new proposals on the backstop, which it said it has been seeking for months, despite the bullish tone of her Downing Street statement.

Senior Irish sources said they had expected a reaction from the British prime minister after the public rebuff by EU leaders at the Salzburg summit, and they were frank about the poor state of the negotiations and the uncertain prospects for agreement in the coming months.

Dublin believes Mrs May’s domestic political needs, especially the forthcoming Conservative Party conference, influenced the tone of her remarks on Friday.

However, one senior source pointed out that once the angry reaction to the summit was set aside, the substance of Mrs May’s position had not altered.

In a statement to The Irish Times, spokesman for Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said:

“We welcome that in her statement at Downing Street, Prime Minister May reiterated the UK’s commitment on the need to avoid a hard border and confirmed again that they are committed to implementing the agreement reached last December through a backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.

“It is good that Prime Minister May confirmed that she will bring forward proposals on the backstop text - we have been asking the UK to do this since March.

“The place for that to happen and for these negotiations to conclude successfully is Brussels, between the EU task force and the UK team,” the statement concluded.

Sources pointed to the section of Mrs May’s statement where she seemed to indicate there could be regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK as long as the Stormont Executive and Assembly consent.

But DUP leader Arlene Foster reacted with a statement promising to veto any new regulatory barrier between the North and Great Britain.

Earlier, speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Brexit negotiations are now entering a “rocky patch” but expressed confidence that a deal will be ultimately brokered between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Mr Varadkar said there had been a lot of assertions in the British media in the past couple of weeks that has been way off the mark and had led to false expectations in Britain as to the outcome.

“There was a sense created in the UK press that there was division around the EU table, among the EU 27. There is not. The EU is totally united, not just united behind Ireland but also united behind the single market,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Perhaps the sense was created that prime minister May would come away with something more positive than occurred. I don’t think anyone in the EU or Ireland is to blame for that.

“Ultimately the problems that are created for Britain and the British government are being created as a consequence of Brexit and nobody in EU and Ireland is to blame for that,” he said.