Belfast Telegraph

No plan to protect single market under no-deal Brexit, says Coveney

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister said it was not too late to create a plan to protect the peace process on the island of Ireland.

Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has said there is no plan in place to protect the integrity of the EU single market in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

But Simon Coveney said it was not too late to create a plan that would protect the single market and the peace process on the island of Ireland in the absence of a backstop.

Mr Coveney made the comments as efforts intensify to find a way through the Brexit impasse with the April 12 deadline looming.

Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill met EU negotiator Michel Barnier and the EU parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt for discussions in Brussels on Tuesday.

Ms McDonald said any hardening of the border on the island of Ireland was unacceptable in any form.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar will travel to Paris on Tuesday for a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Mr Varadkar in Dublin on Thursday.

Speaking to RTE News in Cork, Mr Coveney said: “In the absence of a British Government co-operating in the way that they have committed to, to actually prevent checks on the island of Ireland, well then we need to try to come up with another plan.”

Asked whether it was too late with the April 12 date looming, he said: “No, it’s not, because we need to continue to focus on the solution here, which is a solution that was agreed by the British Government and the EU institutions, which was to solve this problem on the basis of regulatory alignment.

“If the British Government refuse to follow through on that commitment that they have made well then, of course, we’ve to speak to the EU Commission about how we respond to that and that was always going to be left to the last number of weeks.”

In the event of a crash, we have a big, big problem at the Irish border Mary Lou McDonald

Speaking after her meeting with EU leaders in the Belgian capital, Ms McDonald said the Sinn Fein leadership reiterated the necessity to continue to protect Irish interests and prevent a hard border in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Ms McDonald said: “Irrespective of who occupies number 10 Downing Street, the British system needs to understand that there’s no getting away from the question of Ireland. The Irish question needs a resolution.”

She said the British Government had obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.

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Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“In the event of a crash, we have a big, big problem at the Irish border,” she said.

“We’ve set out clearly to Mr Barnier and others that any hardening of that border would represent a step backwards for Ireland.

“We regard any hardening of the border on the island of Ireland to be unacceptable, however it is done.

“The reality is the peace that we enjoy, and the quality of life that people particularly living in border communities enjoy, is based on the premise of free-flowing movement.”

She said any interference to that will cause significant difficulties.

PA

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