There will be no Brexit deal if UK paper is final proposal, Tánaiste warns

‘There are a number of fundamental problems with that proposal,’ Coveney says

There will be no Brexit deal if the paper presented by British prime minister Boris Johnson is the final proposal, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil.

While he believed Mr Johnson wanted to make a deal, he said he “could forgive anyone for being sceptical” because Ireland had not been treated well throughout the Brexit process.

The Government regarded the Johnon proposal as a serious proposal and that was why their response is a cautious one, he said.

“But if that is the final proposal there will be no deal,” he told Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny. “There are a number of fundamental problems with that proposal”.


It would not be the basis of a final agreement, “but I hope it will be a stepping stone”, Mr Coveney said.

There were serious problems with the proposals for customs checks and over the role for the Northern Ireland Executive and a veto for any party on whether to stay in the agreement, he said.

Mr Coveney was answering Opposition questions about the British government’s proposals for a Brexit deal in the run-up to the October 31st deadline.

Mr Kenny said he accepted the EU and Ireland did not want to dismiss the proposals out of hand. “But a reality has to be brought to bear on this. What Boris Johnson has presented is totally unworkable and that has to be said.”

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary said the conclusions could only be that the proposals did not protect the Belfast Agreement or deal with issues such as a customs border and a regulatory body.

He also raised concerns about the consultative role for the Northern Ireland Assembly and a position for one of the parties in the North to have a veto.

In reply, Mr Coveney said: “We cannot support any proposal that suggest one party or indeed a minority could make a decision for the majority on how these proposals would be implemented in the future. It would not be consistent with the Good Friday [Belfast] agreement.”

The Tánaiste said there were some positives in the proposal including full regulatory alignment for goods, including agri-food products on the island of Ireland.

However, there are two significant problems, one of which was customs. “If you are insisting on the North being in a separate customs territory they raise the prospect of a customs check and we think that’s going to be a real problem.”

He said it did not deal with the commitment to no border infrastructure and it did not deliver on a commitment to an all-island economy.

Mr Coveney added that the paper’s proposals on a customs border “fundamentally disrupts what the Belfast Agreement addressed – allowing nationalists and unionists to live together “on an island of Ireland that functions with two jurisdictions but with real convergence between the two so that a border is largely invisible”.

He added that the Government’s approach to the talks would be as they had always been – “calm, respectful but very firm on this”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times