Simon Coveney says it has been a ‘good week for Brexit’

British moving towards a ‘sensible, soft Brexit’, says Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that it has been "a good week for Brexit" and that the EU will now "try to accommodate some of the British thinking".

However, he also said that there are things that the EU cannot and will not compromise on.

Mr Coveney praised the British Prime Minister Theresa May for facing down the hard Brexiteers in her Cabinet and said that he move has unlocked the potential for serious negotiations to begin between the EU and the UK.

“It looks very clear that the British Prime Minister is going to survive this week politically,” Mr Coveney said.


"I think she has shown some authority as a prime minister and I think that was needed on Brexit. Now I think that the serious negotiation on the future relationship needs to begin and we need to conclude over the summer the legal text of a withdrawal agreement that of course has an Irish backstop in it," he said.

He said that the British government was moving to “what the majority of people are looking for - which is a sensible, soft Brexit.”

Mr Coveney was speaking to journalists at the Institute of International and European Affairs think-tank in Dublin where he was making a speech about EU-Africa relations

He said that the “EU will take the new position of the UK on Brexit seriously.”

“I think there will be some challenges from some of the proposals coming from the British government in the context of both customs and single market alignment on goods and agrifood. But I think it is a basis for a real negotiation,” Mr Coveney said.

“There will clearly be some issues that require negotiation and teasing out. But I think we would also recognise that actually despite all of the political movement and challenges at Westminster, I think this has been a good week for Brexit .”

However, he warned that at least some of what the British Government was looking for in the future relationship would be impossible to deliver.

“There will be many in the EU who will say, ‘Look, you’re either in or you’re out’, in terms of the single market and the customs union. Britain is asking for something a little different to that. I think we need to see whether the task force can accommodate some of the British thinking, or not.

“I think people have always said that if Britain was willing to show some flexibility on their red lines, then the EU would try to respond with some generosity and flexibility.

"But there are things that the EU can't do. Michel Barnier and the task force can't negotiate an outcome that compromises the integrity of the EU single market for everybody else. He can't compromise the workings of a shared customs union across the EU for everyone else.

“But having said that I think there will be an attempt to try and accommodate some of the British thinking in a way that protects the integrity of the single market and customs union. That’s not going to be easy, but at least we have clarity from the British government what they are looking for.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times