Ireland must ‘hold its nerve’ in Brexit talks - Tánaiste

Simon Coveney insists backstop agreement is ‘cast iron’ - no withdrawal treaty without it

 Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty: said the backstop was the State’s insurance policy. Photograph:  Gareth Chane/Collins

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty: said the backstop was the State’s insurance policy. Photograph: Gareth Chane/Collins

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Ireland needs to hold its nerve in the intensifying negotiations on Brexit over the summit, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said in the Dáil.

Mr Coveney said the Government was “frustrated and disappointed” at the British government’s failure to deliver on its commitments on the backstop.

The challenge, he said, would be to intensify efforts to get a legal text on the backstop that would deliver on the “cast iron” commitment made in writing by the British government in December 2017 to Ireland and to the president of the European Commission.

The ‘backstop’ provides that in the event there is no overall deal, Northern Ireland would remain in economic alignment with the EU, avoiding a hard border.

Questions were raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty as EU leaders meeting in Brussels warned of the consequences of the failure to make progress on the backstop in the event of no withdrawal agreement.

Mr Doherty said there was a need to bring Ireland’s view on Brexit to the centre of EU negotiations and the backstop was the State’s insurance policy.

He warned that it was the wrong strategy for Ireland to wait for the State’s interests in the negotiations to be dealt with in the “melting pot” of trade and other issues.

The Donegal TD said there needed to be a special EU Council summit in September and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should call for one.

The issue could not be allowed to drift because he claimed the British government was prevaricating and “running down the clock” and that Ireland was playing into its hands.

But the Tánaiste insisted that there would be no withdrawal treaty if there was no legal text on the backstop.

“The treaty will not happen if that doesn’t happen,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Coveney insisted that Brexit was Ireland’s top priority, adding that “Ireland needs to hold its nerve” in the intensifying negotiations over the summer to protect Irish interests.

“That is what we will do, I assure you,” he told Mr Doherty.

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