Ireland plans future relationship with UK like German French arrangement

Simon Coveney says relationship needed to be strong to ‘find a way through a difficult Brexit process’

 Simon Coveney  said that personal relationships between the Irish and British governments, built up over the past two decades, remained strong despite the “challenging times for Anglo-Irish relations”. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Simon Coveney said that personal relationships between the Irish and British governments, built up over the past two decades, remained strong despite the “challenging times for Anglo-Irish relations”. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

New relationship structures “for a post-Brexit environment” will be confirmed between Ireland and Britain at the next meeting of the intergovernmental conference in a couple of months’ time Tannish Simon Coveney has told the Dáil.

He said that personal relationships between the Irish and British governments, built up over the past two decades, remained strong despite the “challenging times for Anglo-Irish relations”.

Mr Coveney added those relationships needed to be strong to “find a way through a difficult Brexit process” and the impact on both countries of the votes in Westminster.

He will meet northern secretary Karen Bradley later this week to discuss the North.

There had been a number of meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and new “relationship structures” will be confirmed.

Mr Coveney, who is Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the kind of relationship France and Germany have or that Spain and Portugal have is what the Government wants to see in the future to build on structures that exist in the Belfast Agreement.

He said however that “we must recognise that Ministers will unfortunately not meet one another regularly in Brussels or Luxembourg and work together on EU projects in the future in the way that they have done over the past 45 years or so”.

And they plan for “at least an annual meeting of both governments led by the Taoiseach and the prime minister but involving many other Ministers as well”.

Mr Coveney refuted a claim by Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Niall Collins that the Government had taken its eye off the ball in its relationship with Britain on Brexit and “exposed us when it came to Britain”.

The Tánaiste said the follow-up bilateral discussions about that common travel area and the legislation to be passed in Westminster and in the Dáil “are testament to how close the relationship is between Britain and Ireland”.

Mr Collins also said his party suggested a model “similar to the Nordic Council of Ministers in terms of structures for dialogue between the governments in a post-Brexit scenario”.

The Tánaiste told him that the annual meeting would be “much more than a summit”, which already happens occasionally and there was an “appetite on both sides to formalise a proposal that has been discussed and agreed in principle”.

He said the annual meeting, likely during summer, would include the prime minister and the Taoiseach as well as “probably six or seven other Ministers on both sides in order that there would be a build-up and a proper preparation period for that meeting each year”.

“We would look at areas on which Britain and Ireland need to co-operate, not just Northern Ireland, which is, of course, important, but also economic development, tourism, development aid policy, security issues and many other areas on which, as two neighbouring islands, we need to work together.”