EU ready to work with next British PM on Brexit, Coveney says

Tánaiste stresses withdrawal agreement ‘not up for renegotiation’

Tánaiste  Simon Coveney: “There are other things that can change and be adapted, particularly the future relationship document but the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation.”   Photograph: Henry Nicholls

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “There are other things that can change and be adapted, particularly the future relationship document but the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation.” Photograph: Henry Nicholls

 

The European Union stands ready to work with the next 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”, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

He was speaking in Brussels ahead of the expected victory for Boris Johnson next week in the race for the Conservative Party leadership,

Mr Coveney, who was in Brussels for a meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, 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,” he said.

On the likelihood of a no-deal, Mr Coveney said “The only person who can answer that question . . . is the next prime minister and we’re going to have to wait and see who that is.”

No-deal extension

Meanwhile, the Guardian has reported the EU is preparing to offer Mr Johnson a no-deal Brexit extension beyond October 31st.

“It will be described as a technical delay to save Boris from political embarrassment but then we will have time to find an agreement,” a senior EU diplomat told the newspaper.

Mr Johnson could maintain the stance of being on course to leave EU without an agreement while keeping open the option of coming to a deal with the bloc, according to the proposal cited by the Guardian.

French minister Ameile de Montchalin, on a visit to the Border in Co Louth, said that Paris was ready for talks with the UK on “future relationships and the political situation”.

Speaking alongside Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Helen McEntee, she said she was “totally in line” with the Irish belief that “the best thing on the table is the withdrawal agreement”.

Backstop guarantee

However, Mr Coveney, Dr Merkel and Ms de Montchalin all reiterated that the withdrawal agreement, which contains the backstop guarantee of no return to a hard border and was negotiated over 18 months with the British government, must remain the basis for an agreed exit. While their governments say they are willing to talk to the next British government, this would only involve the political declaration, the basis for the future trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump said Mr Johnson would do a “great job” and would fix Brexit as Britain’s prime minister.

After speaking to the front-runner in the UK Conservative leadership race, the president told reporters he liked Mr Johnson and believed he would clean up the “disaster” left by his predecessor, Theresa May.

“I spoke to him yesterday, I think he’s going to do a great job. I think we’re going to have a great relationship,” Mr Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday, when asked for his view on the favourite to become UK prime minster.

“I think the previous prime minister has done a very bad job with Brexit – what can I say, it’s a disaster. It shouldn’t be that way. I think Boris will straighten it out.”