Simon Coveney sees no ‘ambiguity’ in deal on post-Brexit Border
Minister for Foreign Affairs meets new Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley
Tánaiste Simon Coveney meets Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley at the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster, London, on Friday. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
Speaking in London after his first meeting with the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, Mr Coveney said the agreement offered a clear fallback position if the Border issue was not resolved as part of a free trade agreement.
“I don’t think there’s any ambiguity in the context of an all-Ireland economy and the need to protect North-South co-operation in the context of the Good Friday agreement,” he said.
“In the absence of an agreement that solves those issues, there’s an agreement to maintain the rules of the single market and customs union for the areas of North-South co-operation.”
The agreement says that, in the absence of another solution for the Border, the UK will maintain full regulatory alignment with those rules of the single market and the customs union which, “now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement”.
The British government says this only applies to those areas explicitly earmarked for North-South co-operation, such as animal health and transport links but Mr Coveney, who is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, believes its meaning is clearly more expansive.
“You could read it for yourself. It’s pretty clear to me. And there’s language as well that protects east-west trade between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, which I think is very important also. So that language is clear. I don’t regard it as ambiguous. But what is of course yet to be determined is what the new trade relationship and the new, future relationship on other things outside of trade will actually look like,” he said.
Mr Coveney said he had a good meeting with Ms Bradley, who visited Belfast for the first time this week, focusing on efforts to restore devolution in Northern Ireland.
“She’s in a process of consultation with all the parties right now and obviously wanted to hear my perspective on various things. So I expect that we’ll meet again next week,” he said.
“ Everyone knows there are time constraints in terms of the work that we need to do. But also I think everyone agrees that we want devolved government again in Northern Ireland. That is the best form of governance for Northern Ireland and everybody wants to work towards that. I’m looking forward to working closely with Karen and the British government to make that happen.”