Brexit: Brussels is in waiting-for-Boris mode, Coveney says

Tánaiste says he had been reassured by his meeting with Michel Barnier

Tanaiste  Simon Coveney was less than emphatic in response to a question about the necessity under EU rules for controls on animal-based food imports on the Border, ‘at the point of entry.  Photograph: Henry Nicholls/File Photo/Reuters

Tanaiste Simon Coveney was less than emphatic in response to a question about the necessity under EU rules for controls on animal-based food imports on the Border, ‘at the point of entry. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/File Photo/Reuters

 

Brussels, like Ireland and Britain, is in waiting-for-Boris mode, Simon Coveney told journalists here after one of his regular meetings with Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday.

On the likelihood of a no-deal, the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, said “the only person who can answer that question …. is the next prime minister and were going to have to wait and see who that is.”

But he was less than emphatic in response to a question about the necessity under EU rules for controls on animal-based food imports on the Border, “at the point of entry”.

He did not reiterate the usual insistence that in a no-deal situation there would be no controls on the Border, but insisted “we are going to do that in a way that doesn’t pose a security risk or undermine a peace process on the island of Ireland, and the European Commission is working with us on that.”

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Mr Coveney said he had been reassured by his meeting with Mr Barnier: “The EU position on Brexit remains consistent we stand ready to work with the new British prime minister as soon as they are in place to have an orderly and managed Brexit and to ensure that we avoid a no-deal Brexit.”

He echoed German chancellor Angela Merkel’s reaffirmation of the centrality of the withdrawal agreement. “There are other things that can change and be adapted, particularly the future relationship document but the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation,” Mr Coveney said.

Asked about Leo Varadkar’s comments in relation to room for compromise, the Tanaiste said that “what the Taoiseach has said is that he’s looking forward to meeting the new British PM whoever that may be, and hopefully welcome them to Dublin and hearing what they have to say in terms of the approach they want to take in regards to Brexit.”

TheTaoiseach will be very clear, he said, “that the withdrawal agreement isn’t going to be renegotiated. It took two and a half years to put together. It involved compromise on both sides . It was designed around British red lines, and it is the agreement which all member states have now endorsed.”

On border controls should a no-deal scenario arise, he said, “we’ve recognised that Ireland is not going to allow a situation whereby the Republic of Ireland effectively gets dragged out of the EU single market.

“This is a single market, we are part of and we helped to create, and we are going to stay part of in the future. And to do that, protect the integrity of the EU single market in Ireland. Otherwise we would potentially face checks on goods leaving the Republic of Ireland going to other parts of the single market.

“That is going to involve mechanisms that can deliver reassurance to both the European Commission and other member states that we will protect the integrity of the shared single market. But, we are going to do that in a way that doesn’t pose a security risk or undermine a peace process on the island of Ireland and the European Commission is working with us on that,” Mr Coveney said.