Simon Coveney hopes for ‘serious’ Brexit proposals from British
Tánaiste believes Boris Johnson knows what is required to get a deal done
Tanaiste Simon Coveney said Ireland will support any UK request for an extension to Article 50 . Photograph: John Thys / AFP
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said it doesn’t matter whether British proposals on Brexit are made publicly or privately once they are credible and bridge the current gap .
Mr Coveney said he believed British prime minister Boris Johnson and his government know what is required to get a deal done. He urged them to work to achieving that deal which needs to be done within the next two weeks.
“I hope we will see a serious paper coming from the British government after the Tory Party conference. We have yet to see that because what’s been proposed from the UK (to date) is not credible in the context of getting a deal.”
“I think the British understand that so I hope we will see a significant change coming from British negotiations on the back of a serious and credible proposal in writing that can then be the focus of an intense negotiation on both sides.
“What needs to happen is a negotiation between Michel Barnier and British negotiators. I don’t mind whether that happens privately or whether proposals are published.”
He was speaking at a function organised by Cork City Council.
“For far too long, decisions around Brexit have been made on the back of party political reasons as opposed to trying to get an agreement between the UK and the EU as a whole,” he said.
“It should not be about party political manoeuvres in advance of a general election. That is why our position has remained absolutely consistent for three years in terms of the priorities we are trying to achieve here.”
“We respect the British decision to leave the EU but we also expect them to respect that that decision causes significant disruption on the island of Ireland and there are issues that need to be resolved.”
Mr Coveney said Ireland will support any UK request for an extension to Article 50 .
“We have said for many, many months now that an extension is always preferable to a no-deal - both the UK and Ireland would be significantly impacted by a no-deal in a negative way and we want to avoid that.”
“We would like to get a deal in October so we don’t need any more extensions but I think the Irish view is that, so long as there is good reason for the request to extend, we would certainly support that - over triggering a no-deal.”
Asked about DUP leader, Arlene Foster’s comments at the Tory Party Conference that the DUP would be open to discussing a time-limited backstop, Mr Coveney said he didn’t believe such a move offered the basis for a deal.
“I think the DUP want to avoid a no-deal, so do we - we want a solution here that all of the political parties in Northern Ireland can live with but that involves compromise and the withdrawal agreement itself was a compromise.
“I think we need to listen and respect all of the parties in Northern Ireland, not just one, not just because one party has influence in Westminster and they do, and they have votes in Westminster that are important.
“But all of the parties in Northern Ireland have to be able to live with the outcomes here and all of parties want to avoid border infrastructure because they know the corrosive impact that that would have on community relations.”
Mr Coveney said that the Government had explained many times that putting a time limit on the backstop did not address what happens at the end of that time limit in terms of ensuring there was no return to a hard border.
He said everybody hoped that the back stop would never have to be used and that it would prove temporary but setting a time limit without addressing what happens at the end of the time limit, would lead to “political anxiety”.
Mr Coveney didn’t attach any great importance to the fact Ms Foster made her comments regarding a time-limited backstop at the Tory Party conference rather than in Dublin last week when she met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
“That’s a matter for the DUP - I need to be careful with any commentary around the DUP because it often gets misrepresented,” said Mr Coveney who was equally coy about how her comments would be greeted by the Tories.
“I don’t know is the straight answer and that really isn’t my issue - that’s an issue for the DUP and for the (Eurosceptic) European Research Group and for the broader Tory party membership and the MPs,” he said
“The British government has to find a way forward here - there are in a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP so that relationship is really a matter for them,” he added.
He said the Irish position was to try and ensure Irish issues are understood fully and that any changes in approach are consistent with the guarantees offered within the Withdrawal Agreement there will be no return to a hard border.