Simon Coveney to meet top-level ‘soft Brexiteers’ in London

Minister set to emphasise Britain must deliver legally on December commitments

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: to meet  UK cabinet office minister David Lidington and chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond in London on Wednesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: to meet UK cabinet office minister David Lidington and chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond in London on Wednesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will visit London on Wednesday where he has scheduled meetings with cabinet office minister David Lidington and chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, regarded by the Government as two of the leading “soft Brexiteers” in the British government.

Mr Coveney will also meet Northern Secretary Karen Bradley and Michael Gove, who was one of the chief campaigners for Brexit. Mr Coveney is also scheduled to meet Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer.

His spokesman said that Mr Coveney would be “hammering home the consistent and identical message from the Taoiseach, Jean Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Michel Barnier and the EU27 that Britain must deliver legally on the commitments made in December and in March and in all circumstances must protect peace in Northern Ireland with the guarantee of no hard border.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU was about “much more” than trade and money.

It is about maintaining our peace process and allowing people that live on either side of the Border to continue to lead normal lives and to lead peaceful lives

Speaking to reporters at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, Mr Varadkar was asked which was more important: a resolution to the Border issue that has ground down talks between the EU or UK, or a post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal.

“They’re both important, but the issue of avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is about much more than trade and about much more than money,” he said.

“It is about maintaining our peace process and allowing people that live on either side of the Border to continue to lead normal lives and to lead peaceful lives.”

He would not comment on the UK government’s so-called white paper on London’s latest proposal that is reported to keep the UK tied to European market rules for goods post-Brexit until he saw it.

British prime minister Theresa May is aiming to sign off on the UK’s plan at a key meeting of her Cabinet on Friday.

Mr Varadkar said that he believed a hard border would be avoided.

The tricky part in Brexit negotiations was, he said, ensuring free trade between the UK and the EU, including Ireland, post-Brexit.

Any move towards protectionism is something that we oppose and a real risk

“The only barrier to achieving those things is the UK’s own red lines, but if they soften, Europe will be flexible,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said there were “real risks” from the potential impact of Brexit which was why it must be “as soft as possible and to have a transitional period.”

“Any move towards protectionism is something that we oppose and a real risk,” he said.

The Taoiseach said that he was unaware of reports that the Revenue Commissioners were scouting locations for possible border checkpoints in the event of no Brexit deal to avoid a hard border under contingency plans.

“If they are, they are certainly are not doing it at the direction of Government and if they are, they can stop,” he said.

“We are not contemplating a physical border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; that is simply not going to happen.”