Ireland and EU on their own cannot secure Brexit agreement for UK – Tánaiste

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Ireland and EU on their own cannot secure Brexit agreement for UK – Tánaiste


Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney warned that Ireland and the EU on their own cannot secure a Brexit agreement for the UK with the Westminster Parliament required to vote in favour of some kind of withdrawal deal.

Mr Coveney, responding to EU warnings that a no-deal Brexit was now “becoming increasingly likely” with major implications for the Irish border, insisted that there was still a majority in Westminster against the UK crashing out of the EU.

The Cork TD moved to ease fears over the latest Brussels analysis of the situation and insisted that Dublin, as well as all other EU member states, were working hard to hammer out a political solution to the crisis.

“That is because we don’t have a solution and we only have a few weeks to go to the new deadlines that have been set,” he said.

“We have been intensifying our no-deal planning for many weeks now – should it come to that, we will be as ready as we can be – we have passed legislation, we have put significant financial resources in place that will be triggered in the context of a no-deal so that we can protect vulnerable sectors and work with them through a very disruptive and difficult period.

“But, of course, we are continuing to focus on getting political solutions but we can’t do that on our own with the EU side.

“The British parliament and the British Government have to find a way of voting for something as opposed to just voting against things.

“We will understand later how the British Prime Minister (Theresa May) and her Government intend to approach that this week in terms of trying to get on the third occasion of asking a withdrawal agreement agreed, ratified and settled.

“If she isn’t able to do that on how she intends on moving forward – in my view there is a strong majority in Westminster that do not want to see a no-deal Brexit.

“It is damaging and very negative for everybody involved including Ireland and the UK.

“But what we don’t know yet is how the British Parliament intends to prevent that. I think we will get a lot more clarity as we move through the parliamentary sittings this week but the sooner we get that clarity the better for everybody.”

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Mr Coveney rejected suggestions that protecting the EU Single Market and avoiding a hard border were now mutually incompatible given the UK stance.

“No, they are not. The way in which we do this we have worked through over the last three years and we’ve come up with a mechanism to do it – it’s called the ‘Back-Stop’ in relation to a fall back insurance mechanism in the absence of other ways of doing it that are agreed by all sides.

“In a no-deal scenario, the British Government have made it clear in their paper that they published the week before last that the British Government, the Irish Government and the European Commission will need to work closely together.

“We have got an indication from the British paper on the kind of approach that they want which is consistent with the commitments that they made back in December 2017 which is that a lot of this is to be done on the basis of regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to ensure that we protect the integrity of the Single Market and we protect an all-island economy that needs to function now and into the future which of course was the commitment of December 2017.”

The Cork TD stressed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been consistent with her position throughout the Brexit process.

“What Chancellor Merkel said is that we need to make sure that the twin responsibilities that we have, protecting the Single Market and ensuring that there isn’t the re-emergence of a physical border between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, to make sure that we can do that so we would welcome her intervention which is about ensuring that there are practical arrangements in place that fulfil both of those commitments and that is what she said.”

Mr Coveney added that the onus is now on everyone involved in the Brexit process, but most especially on the UK, to ensure a compromise agreement is achieved.

“Look, the Irish Government does not control all the (Brexit) levers here,” he said.

“All the levers that we do control, we have acted upon in terms of contingency. Unfortunately, the only certainty that is left to deliver at this stage has to be delivered from Westminster – not from Dublin and not from Brussels.

“The EU has been consistent in terms of its approach for many many months now. The Irish Government has been absolutely consistent and firm but also fair in relation to our approach.

“It is Westminster where the crisis is and it is Westminster that has to deliver the solutions to that crisis. I think we will hopefully get some more clarity from the British Prime Minister as to how she intends to that this week,” he said.

Online Editors

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