Brexit: Coveney says EU will ‘not abandon’ Ireland during talks

Tánaiste tells the Dáil Brexit will see a permanent change in relationship with Britain

The EU “will not abandon Ireland” in the crucial upcoming Brexit negotiations, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has insisted in the Dáil. Video: Oireachtas

 

The EU “will not abandon Ireland” in the crucial upcoming Brexit negotiations, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has insisted in the Dáil.

He told Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald “there is a very strong understanding across the 27 EU states in relation to what is required”.

He regarded the decision “that may be taken as of real historic significance”.

The Tánaiste said “this is about permanent change in the relationship between Ireland and Britain and within this island”.

The Government remained firm in its view and had not moved from that position, he said.

“What perhaps has changed is the expectation of others that Ireland might change its position,” he said.

The best option would be for the UK as a whole to remain part of same customs union and Single Market. “That is a decision for British government to make.”

But he said that if a decision could not be made “so be it”.

Ms McDonald warned of a “real danger that the best interests of Irish citizens will be sacrificed to allow the EU to move on”.

She said there was a “effort in British press and in the Tories to bounce us into some kind of vague cobbled-together deal”.

They wanted this “without a second through for Ireland, our peace agreement or our economy”.

Ms McDonald had called for the State to use its veto of moving to the next stage of talks should firm guarantees of the retention of all the elements of the Belfast Agreement not be maintained.

She said the North had to remain in the customs union and single market.

Ms McDonald warned of a “real danger that best interests of Irish citizens will be sacrificed to allow the EU to move on”.

She said there was a “effort in British press and in the Tories to bounce us into some kind of vague cobbled together deal”.

They wanted this “without a second through for Ireland, our peace agreement or our economy”.

Ms McDonald warned “Ireland can’t become collateral damage” and told Mr Coveney: “Your Government shouldn’t be bought off with vague assurances.”

She said the EU leaders’ summit on December 14th and 15th would be another test of the Government’s resolve.

“You can’t blink. You can’t back down in defence of our national interests.”

She called on the Tánaiste to use Ireland’s veto if it did not get the assurances it needed.

The State has been given the option to veto progress to phase two of the EU/UK talks on trade if sufficient progress has not been made on the Border.

Mr Coveney pointed out that “we are not looking for some kind of constructive ambiguity”.

He said the other 26 EU states stood with Ireland. The German and Luxembourg foreign ministers had confirmed this.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier had confirmed that “Ireland’s challenge is the EU’s’ challenge” and “they will not abandon Ireland”.