EU deal means a different ‘backstop’, Tánaiste tells Dáil

Simon Coveney urges caution but says the deal is significant and worth supporting

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the deal as a ‘very big achievement’ and believed ‘it is a deal worth supporting’. Photograph: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the deal as a ‘very big achievement’ and believed ‘it is a deal worth supporting’. Photograph: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has urged caution about the deal agreed between the EU and the UK on Brexit because it has to be ratified by the European and British parliaments.

But he described it as a “very big achievement” and believed “it is a deal worth supporting”.

He said the deal changed the “backstop”, the insurance policy to prevent a hard border, but the new arrangement prevented any border or customs checks.

Much of the withdrawal agreement deal previously in play remained the same, he told the Dáil. “But the bit that has changed relates to Ireland.”

“We have always said that if we can replace the backstop with something else that does the same job on the key issues in terms of protecting the peace process, preventing a hard border and protecting Ireland’s place in the EU single market and the customs union - if we can achieve that - then we will always look favourably on a new approach as long as the outcomes were guaranteed. And I believe they are.”

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary asked if the Tánaiste had spoken to the DUP about their concerns. Mr Calleary said that political relationships had been damaged “and it is important that we engage with the DUP”.

He asked if Mr Coveney had any plans to talk to the DUP between now and the Westminster vote on Saturday.

The Tánaiste said he remained open to engagement. He had met Sinn Féin and spoken to the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin this week in Belfast.

“Of course we want to reach out but that doesn’t mean we can change the deal,” he said.

“The deal is now what it is.” He said it would be put to a vote in Westminster but the management of that vote was a matter for the British prime ministers.

He pointed out that the transition period remained intact. Transition would end at the end of 2020 unless the UK decides to ask for an extension of one or two years.

The Tánaiste paid tribute particularly to chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his team and said they had shown an extraordinary willingness to understand Ireland in their negotiations.

He told Independent TD Joan Collins that two documents would be presented at today’s EU Council meeting - the withdrawal agreement as an international treaty document and a political declaration, a political signal of intent of the kind of relationship the UK is seeking with the EU in the future.

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