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Brexit promises undeliverable: Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney

By Jonathan Bell

Promises made over Brexit are "undeliverable," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said.

In an interview with Sky News the minister said that while there was a desire to maintain the "status quo" between the Republic and Northern Ireland after March 2019 when the UK separates from the EU, it was "proving much more complicated and much more difficult than people had anticipated".

After meeting with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Chancellor Philip Hammond, Mr Coveney said UK politicians needed to be "honest" with the British public about the split from the EU.

He said that Ireland was more exposed and vulnerable to a bad Brexit deal than any of its EU counterparts and there were big challenges both to cross-border trade and the Northern Ireland peace process.

However, after meeting Secretary of State James Brokenshire he did offer hope of a workable solution being found saying his country would be "Britain's closest friend" in the talks process, adding: "The outcome that we want is one that I think Britain also wants."

He added: "What has been promised to the British people in terms of what Brexit offers and the opportunities of it, in the context of also trying to hold on to the benefits of the relationship that Britain has with the EU, I don't think is deliverable.

He said the task of the exit talks was "such a difficult challenge" that there needed to be a "mature, flexible and pragmatic" approach in finding solutions.

"It is not in my view possible for Britain on the one hand to be negotiating free trade arrangements with countries on a bilateral basis all over the world and at the same time to expect barrier-free trade into the single market of the EU, which is the most open single market in history."

Following his talks with Mr Coveney, Mr Davis expressed confidence a Brexit deal would protect the Good Friday Agreement.

"We both recognise the importance of finding flexible and imaginative solutions to the issues we face, and I am determined to build on the genuine progress we have made so far when negotiations with the EU begin again next week," he said.

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