Belfast Telegraph

Ireland’s Europe Minister rules out bilateral Brexit talks

Helen McEntee said the Brexit negotiations are between the European Union and the UK.

Activists wave European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London (Victoria Jones/PA)
Activists wave European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ireland’s European Affairs Minister has ruled out bilateral talks on Brexit with the DUP and any other political party in the UK.

Helen McEntee said the Brexit negotiations are between the European Union and the UK.

Ms McEntee was speaking following reports of a new treaty between the UK and Ireland to replace the Irish backstop.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, she said: “What we can’t do and won’t do, because we have not throughout this entire process, is engage in any kind of bilateral negotiations with the DUP or any other political party in the North or the UK.”

On Monday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Prime Minister Theresa May could consider amending the Good Friday Agreement in order to break the deadlock over the Irish border.

Ms McEntee, however ruled out tweaking the Good Friday peace agreement.

She said: “It is not negotiable for us and I really doubt any parties in the South or North or those in the UK would agree to it.

“We have 94% of the people here who voted overwhelmingly to support the Good Friday Agreement and it was over 70% in the North.

“To suggest that after only 20 years we would try to amend it or change it, it’s not something that we would consider and not something I think the Prime Minister would consider.

“Everything we are hearing is speculation and until the Prime Minister actually brings forward her motion, all of this is speculation.”

We don’t pretend it is an easy (challenge), we don’t pretend it is an easy (challenge)

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said that the possibility of the EU and the UK resolving the backstop issue without the input of Belfast and Dublin is “unrealistic”.

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Jeffrey Donaldson wants more communication over Irish backstop issue (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “What we need to do is to find solutions and it is evident from the vote in the House of Commons last week that there are concerns, not just in the DUP, but across the House of Commons on the proposed backstop arrangement.

“We need to find a way of addressing those concerns and that means we need to be talking.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster met with Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney in Belfast two weeks ago about the withdrawal treaty’s most contentious provision.

Mr Donaldson said it would “be good” to hold a meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney.

He added: “We are capable of finding solutions but the absence of political institutions (in Northern Ireland) has made it that more difficult but it shouldn’t prevent us from giving it a go.”

He added that a solution needs to be found to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and in the Irish sea.

“We don’t pretend it is an easy (challenge),” he added.

“We recognise that there does need to be assurances given.”

PA

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