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Coveney says all sides must protect Irish peace process amid no deal Brexit threat

The Tánaiste has warned the incoming UK Prime Minister that the “facts don’t change” when ...
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.10 21 Jul 2019


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Coveney says all sides must pr...

Coveney says all sides must protect Irish peace process amid no deal Brexit threat

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.10 21 Jul 2019


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The Tánaiste has warned the incoming UK Prime Minister that the “facts don’t change” when it comes to Brexit.

Speaking on the BBCs Andrew Marr Show this morning, Simon Coveney said “we are all in trouble” if the next British leader insists that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is dead in the water.

“If approach of the new British Prime Minister is that they are going tear up the withdrawal agreement then I think we are in trouble,” he said.

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“I think we are all in trouble quite frankly because that is a bit like saying, ‘either give me what I want I want or I am going to burn the house down for everybody.’

“The EU has made it very clear that we want to engage with a new British Prime Minster, we want to avoid a no deal Brexit – but the solutions that have been put in place to do that haven’t changed.”

He said the agreement involved “compromise on all sides” over years of negotiation and the EU will not simply throw that away because a new UK Prime Minister says it has to.

“The complexities don’t change; the vulnerabilities on the island of Ireland don’t change and just because there is a change in personality as British Prime Minister does not mean that the negotiation of the last three years and the solutions that were designed by the British Government as much as by the EU are not still as relevant and important today as they were six or eight weeks ago,” he said.

"Not a reasonable ask"

He said it is ‘not reasonable’ to ask the Irish people to compromise on the backstop just because of a change in the Conservative Party leadership.

“This is about reassuring people in Northern Ireland that they are not going to go back to the friction and tensions of the past,” he said.

“That is ultimately what this is about and to ask Ireland to compromise on that core issue when we spent two-and-a-half years working with the British government and the EU to try and find a way through compromise on all sides to ensure that we don’t face that prospect, is not a reasonable ask because of a political challenge in Westminster.”

He said a backstop with a time limit is “not a backstop at all” and noted that the Commons Brexit Committee has already warned that Boris Johnson’s plan for a standstill free trade agreement while talks continue is “not a viable option at all.”

He said the agreement puts a legal obligation on all parties to work to find solutions to the border issue and includes review mechanisms to facilitate that.

“But it does need to there as a default position if all else fails,” he said.

“That is commitment that the British Government, including a government that both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were part of, have given a commitment on, on multiple occasions both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.”

Border checks

He said Ireland will not introduce border checks in the event of a no deal – but warned that checks will have to take place somewhere in Ireland in order to protect the integrity of the Single Market.

If the British Government forces a no deal Brexit on everybody else, the Republic of Ireland will have no choice but to protect its own place in the EU Single Market," he said.

“We cannot allow an open back door into the EU Single Market through Northern Ireland.

“I we do, well then the Republic of Ireland will be taken out of the Single Market as well. I can’t allow that and we won’t.”

He said any form of checks will “fundamentally disrupt the all-island economy” which has been “re-enforcer of peace and normality on the island of Ireland” for more than 20 years.

Peace process

Writing in the UK edition of The Sunday Times this morning, Minister Coveney warned that a no deal Brexit will devastate Northern Ireland’s economy and put the peace process at risk.

He said the Good Friday Agreement is “the single biggest achievement” Ireland and Britain shares – and warns that both sides have an obligation to protect it.

The article notes that the Irish Government looks forward to working with the new UK leader; however, the “facts and complexity relating to Brexit remain the same.”

He said the withdrawal agreement is a “balanced document” that protects the interests of all sides – and that is “not something that is up for renegotiation.”

“More than two years has gone into negotiating a fair withdrawal agreement to accommodate the UKs red lines,” he wrote.

"It includes the backstop, which was designed jointly by the UK and the EU to provide guarantees to protect our shared interests in Northern Ireland.

“The backstop exists to protect the Good Friday Agreement. This was understood by all parties, including the British Government and the EU when they jointly agreed it.”

Good Friday Agreement

He said Ireland’s one and only red line throughout the process has been that “nothing should be done to put at risk peace on the island of Ireland.”

The article notes that the Irish and British Governments are obliged to protect the Good Friday Agreement as it co-guarantors. The minister said the UK honoured that responsibility by negotiating the backstop and the incoming UK leader must follow through on that commitment.

“If Britain decides to leave without a deal it would cause huge damage to us all,” he wrote.

“Clearly Northern Ireland is more at risk from a no deal Brexit than any other part of these islands.

“It is a unique place where people have a birthright to identify themselves as British or Irish or both.

“Its people did not vote for Brexit. A no deal Brexit will devastate the Northern Irish economy with tariffs and rules that will fundamentally disrupt the all-island economy upon which so much has been built.”

No deal Brexit

Minister Coveney said claims the North will not be hurt too badly in a no deal scenario are directly contradicted by the Northern Ireland civil service, the PSNI, business groups and regional farming and fishing groups.

“As we enter a critical period, where so much is at stake for the people of these two islands, it is important that we are realistic about the impact of decisions on people who have not chosen to leave the EU,” he wrote.

“The withdrawal agreement is a balanced document that deals with the interests of all parties and is not something that is up for renegotiation.”

He said Ireland has a fundamental interest in a “successful, prosperous UK” and said the Government looks forward to meeting and engaging with the new UK Prime Minister.


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Backstop Brexit Coveney Good Friday Agreement No-deal Peace Process Simon Coveney

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