Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson visits Simon Coveney in Dublin... and they're already disagreeing in early morning press conference

By Kevin Doyle

A massive gulf between Ireland and the UK in the Brexit negotiations was in clear evidence as Boris Johnson arrived in Dublin today.

The UK's Foreign Secretary and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney publicly disagreed on a series of issues during an early morning press conference.

In particular Mr Johnson said the future of the border region cannot be decided until the second phase of the Brexit talks.

Asked to offer up even a hypothetical vision of how a 'frictionless border' might work, Mr Johnson said the British government's view "is you can only really crack the problem" in the second phase of the talks.

By contrast Mr Coveney said: "The parameters [of how a post-Brexit border might work] need to be a lot clearer and more credible before we go on to phase two."

The European Council will meet next month to decide whether the talks should move past negotiations on the so-called divorce bill, citizens' rights and the Irish question.

Mr Coveney admitted there is "an impasse" in relation to the border and urged the UK government to consider keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union.

The minister said everybody wants the talks to progress but "we are not in a place right now that allows us to do that".

Mr Coveney also called for a lengthy transitional period of up to five years to allow businesses adjust to life after Brexit.

This was rejected by Mr Johnson who said he was unaware that Ireland support "such a long transitional period".

He said the "maximum reassurance" for companies and people can be provided "in a much shorter timescale".

Mr Johnson said Brexit should "proceed as fast as possible".

Despite the clear diplomatic split emerging between Dublin and London, Mr Johnson did reiterate that the UK has "no interest whatsoever in seeing a hard border".

But Mr Coveney responded that the challenge is to find "a credible roadmap to get us there".

"There's a sense of jumping into the dark here," he said.

Separately Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May in Gothenburg today.

Irish Independent

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