Brexiteers should get acquainted with Irish history, Coveney says

Tánaiste responds to Rees-Mogg claim that hard Border can be avoided even if no Brexit deal reached

Tánaiste Simon Coveney meets then British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a prominent Brexiteer,   at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on January 31st last. Photograph:  Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney meets then British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a prominent Brexiteer, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on January 31st last. Photograph: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images.

 

Some British politicians, such as arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg, should acquaint themselves with Irish history, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has suggested.

Mr Coveney said some people “need to remind themselves of the violence and tragedy and division linked to the challenges that we’ve had on the island of Ireland north and south and within Northern Ireland itself, and that’s what we’re trying to ensure we never go back to”.

“People like Jacob Rees Mogg in my view would do well to focus on Irish history,” he said during a briefing for journalists.

Mr Coveney was asked about Mr Rees Mogg’s claim that hard Irish border could be avoided even if the UK leaves the European Union in March with no Brexit deal in place.

“I’m not going to get into commenting on Jacob Rees Mogg or the comments that he makes, other than to say the Irish Government from the very outset saw the dangers and continues to see the dangers of the potential corrosive effect of border infrastructure between the two jurisdictions on this island, upsetting the normality that so many people have worked so hard to create over the last 20 years and before that,” the Cork South Central TD said.

His comments echo a statement made by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern at a conference in Dublin last weekend.

Backstop

Mr Coveney said the Government never wants the backstop, the insurance policy to ensure there is no hard border even if there is no future EU-UK trade deal, to be used.

The backstop - which would effectively see the UK remain in a customs union with the EU, with add on measures in both customs and regulations for Northern Ireland - is the main obstacle to the Brexit withdrawal agreement passing the House of Commons.

However, Mr Coveney said British prime minister Theresa May has been one of the strongest advocates for the backstop.

“One of the most articulate and strongest advocates for the so-called backstop has been the British prime minister. If you heard what she said when she was being challenged in Westminster last week, it was a really strong defence of why the backstop is there, why the peace process is important, why Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is important to her. Why she wants to reach out to everybody in Northern Ireland and all political parties. And why she thinks the backstop does matter.

“We want to provide all the reassurance you can to parliamentarians, to Westminster, that we don’t want to use the backstop, if we’re ever forced to use it we only want it to be there on a temporary basis, and we want long-term solutions that don’t involve the backstop, and we’ll work with Britain to that end and with our EU partners as well.”

Updated

He said the Government’s no-deal preparations, which were published this week, will have to be updated in the new year.

“There are a number of areas that will need updating if a no-deal Brexit materialises. Fishing for example. There isn’t a comprehensive no-deal plan here. We’re meeting the (European) Commission on January 10 on fishing specifically, looking at no-deal preparations. Likewise we haven’t focused on a no-deal contingency plan on the border.

“Instead the focus should be on making the compromise that both sides have agreed to work. And to give reassurance between now and when British parliamentarians vote. For us to be exploring or talking about other options that are not easily put together is not wise.”

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