Coveney dismisses suggestions of 11th hour Brexit deal

Tánaiste says it would be wrong to think last minute deal could be reached given complexities involved

Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaking during a business conference at Longchamp racecourse in Paris last week. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaking during a business conference at Longchamp racecourse in Paris last week. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has played down suggestions in the British media the UK government is hoping to agree a last minute Brexit deal at a European Council of Ministers meeting in October.

Mr Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that it would be wrong to think that an 11th hour deal could be reached on the withdrawal agreement at the October 17th meeting given the complexity of what is involved.

“I don’t see how any EU Council meeting is going to be able to redesign a withdrawal agreement of the complexity of this withdrawal agreement which is a legal document which runs to many, many pages - even the Irish protocol on its own is complex.

“If you take out one essential element which is part of the balance and compromise of that withdrawal agreement without having a properly thought through alternative arrangement - well then, the withdrawal agreement starts to fall apart.”

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Speaking in Rathcoole near Millstreet in north Cork where he officially launched the Irish Community Rapid Response Air Ambulance service, Mr Coveney said that the EU was still waiting to see what alternatives the UK government can offer to replace the backstop. The backstop is a mechanism in the withdrawal agreement that would guarantee that the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic remains open after Brexit.

“We have spent many many months looking at alternatives to the backstop but the backstop was actually designed because of British red lines because it was a British ask that resulted in the backstop, not anybody else’s.”

Asked if there was a particular date when the Irish Government would acknowledge the inevitability of a no-deal Brexit if no progress is made in the talks between the UK and the EU, Mr Coveney said the matter is being reviewed on a daily basis.

“We are going to have a pretty intense discussion on Brexit in Cabinet tomorrow. I’m bringing a Brexit memo, as I do to almost every Cabinet meeting in terms of updating my colleagues on the state of preparedness in Ireland and what we need to do.

“We are assessing Brexit on a daily basis and the Government will make a collective decision as to when we move from a default position of there being a deal to a default position of there being a no deal and if we think it’s right to do it.

“And when we feel the Government needs to move into that space, certainly we won’t hesitate to do that and we will I think be making decisions on that issue in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

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