Brexit: Coveney says border breakthrough ‘doable’ but flexibility needed

  • Taoiseach is meeting president of the European Council Donald Tusk in Dublin today

An agreement to avoid a hard border in the Brexit negotiations is possible by a key EU summit next month but there needs to be “some movement and more flexibility,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Speaking at an event in Dublin, Mr Coveney said that a deal could be reached on securing assurances from London on the border post-Brexit but more work was required over the coming days.

“I think it is doable but I think there is need for some movement and more flexibility than we have seen to date,” he told reporters.

“We are not where we need to be today but I do think it is possible to get to where we need to be within the next few days and we are going to work really hard on that.”

The newly appointed Tánaiste said that Brexit negotiations could not move on to second-phase discussions on the future EU-UK relations without assurances on the future of the border and “a more creditable understanding of the parameters within which we are going to solve the border issues in phase two.”

“That is all we are asking for and that is why we raised issues like the need to avoid regulatory divergence between the two jurisdictions on the island if we are going to have north-south cooperation that functions in the future,” he told the media after speaking in a public interview at an event hosted by Facebook.

The Dublin and London governments have been looking at “wording and drafting,” he said, and working with EU negotiators “to try and find wording that can move this forward.”

Negotiators were “pretty close to getting substantial progress” on two of three key issues to be determined in first-phase negotiations – the so-called Brexit divorce bill to be paid by the British and the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit – but that the border issue remained unresolved.

“On two of those it looks like we are going to get the job done in the next week but on Ireland there is still work to do,” he said.
“We will be insistent on there being no fudge here that we get something real and something credible.”

The Government is seeking clarity from the British on how to avoid a hard border after London quits the EU’s single market and customs union while the Republic of Ireland remains in both as part of the EU.

Mr Coveney said that while the Government “won’t have all the answers” by the critical summit of EU leaders on December 14th and 15th that will determine whether negotiations can proceed to phase two, he was hopeful that they can agree on “parameters” to resolve those issues in the second phase.

Asked whether the Government would “veto” negotiations if no progress was made by the time British prime minister Theresa May meets European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker on Monday, Mr Coveney said there would be no need for a veto because the other 26 EU states supported Ireland’s position.

“We don’t want Ireland to be the problem here but at the same time we don’t want to move on to phase two and avoid the hard questions that do need more credible answers than we have today,” he said.

On the Democratic Unionist Party’s claims that the Government was seeking to set Northern Ireland apart from the UK, Mr Coveney said that he was not go to be drawn into responding to their comments.

“We agree far more than we disagree on,” he said.

Source: Irish Times

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