Belfast Telegraph

Brexit deal no threat to Northern Ireland's constitutional status, says Coveney

Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)
Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has said the proposed Brexit deal does not pose a threat to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

He said the deal removes the controversial backstop and ensures that Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK customs union, but includes a democratic checking system to prevent any customs infrastructure in Ireland.

The DUP has said it will not back the withdrawal agreement, saying that it will introduce greater than necessary checks between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Mr Coveney, speaking on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rouke programme, sought to reassure unionists that if the deal was adopted it would have the status of an international treaty with a democratic checking system based on a simple majority.

He said it was not "one-sided" and that the democratic mechanism will be based on a simple majority

It would be a system where the Northern Ireland Assembly is asked to vote by simple majority on whether they want to continue the arrangements put in place by this international treaty.

He said there will be enormous consequences to Saturday's vote in the House of Commons.

Mr Coveney said the Irish Government would continue to prepare for a no-deal scenario and that contingency plans are in place for the island of Ireland for all scenarios.

Mr Coveney added that his government would "strongly advocate" for an extension to allow a new deal be put in place if Boris Johnson fails to get his deal through parliament.

However, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made it clear that although Ireland would be open to an extension for the House of Commons to ratify the deal, there is no plan B.

"Plan B is no deal, and we're all preparing for that, and we've all been preparing for that since the referendum, but let's hope that doesn't happen," he said.

"Bear in mind this has to be ratified by both the House of Commons and European Parliament, we can be pretty confident it will be ratified in the European Parliament, the House of Commons, we'll see over the next couple of days.

"If the House of Commons does vote yes that will put us in a position to stand down our no deal preparations, but we won't stop them entirely as there is always an outside chance something could go wrong, so we could stand them down but not abandon them."

French president Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he did not want to see another extension granted.

He told a press conference at the close of the EU summit in Brussels: "So that we can turn to the future, I believe that we shall stick to the deadline of October 31.

"That being said, I'm not trying to read the future but I do not think we shall grant any further delay.

"I believe it is now time to put an end to these negotiations and work on the future relationship and put an end to what is currently ongoing.

"Like I said, there shall be no delay unless there are some major changes."

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