Belfast Telegraph

EU unlikely to accept May's Brexit proposals: Coveney

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has poured cold water on the UK's latest proposals to avoid a post-Brexit hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Coveney was responding to ideas included in a keynote address by Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday aimed at outlining the UK's roadmap to Brexit.

In her speech, Mrs May acknowledged the Irish border was a problem which was part of the UK's responsibility.

The Prime Minister outlined either a 'customs partnership' between the UK and Ireland, or a 'streamlined customs arrangement' which would include approved businesses and technological solutions in some form.

Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Coveney said proposals from Mrs May were a starting point.

"This is the mistake that I think is made in Britain all the time. When somebody definitively says something will be the case from the British Government, people assume that is the negotiated outcome - of course it’s not," he said.

"I’m not sure the European Union will be able to support the situation whereby 80% of companies that trade north-south and south-north will actually protect the integrity of the EU single market... 

"… while of course we will explore and look at the proposed British solutions, they are essentially a starting point in negotiations as opposed to an end point."

He made reference to the preliminary agreement between the UK and the EU reached in December which allowed negotiations to move to the second stage.

It included the condition that Northern Ireland would remain fully aligned with the customs union and single market should no alternative arrangement be reached.

"If we can’t agree on solutions, they of course what we have is the backstop, which is a commitment by the British government to maintain full alignment to the rules of the customs union and single market," he said.

Mr Coveney said the crux of the proposals for the future customs arrangement made by Mrs May had been included in two papers published by the British negotiating team last summer.

Responding to Mr Coveney, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the Irish government's approach "defies logic".

"Last August Her Majesty’s Government published innovative proposals to deal with the United Kingdom / Republic of Ireland border.  These were sensible solutions which should have been explored further by the Republic. However, the Irish government has instead thrown its lot in with Brussels and closed down the space to even consider innovative solutions," he said.

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