Coveney’s officials ‘stunned’ by Brexit proposals
The British government is demanding the right to pull out of the guarantee of no hard Border within just three months.
The hardline stance adopted by the British last week is understood to have “stunned” Irish officials, and it is viewed as a setback to the prospect of clinching a Brexit deal this week.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tabled the proposal during a secret meeting with Tánaiste Simon Coveney last Tuesday, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ is reporting.
The London meeting was only disclosed later.
Prime Minister Theresa May will bring plans to avoid a hard Border to her divided cabinet tomorrow.
The plans would see a fall-back position involving the whole of Britain remaining in a customs union with the EU – not just Northern Ireland.
This would negate the need for checks at the Border.
Mr Raab’s proposal to Mr Coveney was that within three months of the backstop coming into force – or six months at the very most – Britain would have the right to trigger a “review mechanism” in which the backstop would only persist by “mutual consent”.
“The idea that an alternative arrangement that delivers no hard Border in Ireland would be ready in three months is totally unrealistic,” said a senior EU source.
Reports in the ‘Sunday Times’, that Mrs May had already concluded a “secret deal”, were dismissed by negotiators from both sides last night.
“If anything, things are now going backwards,” one said.
The Government has been forced to deny British claims that our demands for a strict Border guarantee are being watered-down to secure a deal.
Brexiteers in London are worried Britain will be trapped indefinitely in a customs union.