Belfast Telegraph

Watch: We're interested in outcomes, not personalities - Coveney responds to Foster's Brexit 'intransigence' accusation

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said he is not interested in getting into a personalised war of words with the leader of the DUP over Brexit.

Speaking on Friday, he said: "I'm not getting into personalised commentary like that, the Irish Government has been consistent for three years now, while we respect the decision of the UK to leave the EU, we also expect the British Government would take account of Irish interests, vulnerabilities and exposure and the context of those issues of any Brexit deal that is struck."

His remarks come after the leader of the DUP warned Mr Coveney that he is rejecting a reasonable offer in Boris Johnson's latest Brexit paper.

The Prime Minister's plan would see the UK leave the EU on October 31st and Northern Ireland leave the EU customs union, while remaining aligned with single market rules.

It would also create two borders, one for customs and a border to monitor EU single market rules on agriculture and food products.

Mr Coveney said: "We now have a Prime Minister that wants to remove the backstop and we have said if he wants to do that he has to come up with an alternative that does the same job.

"The British Government has given in writing in 2017 that they would ensure during the Brexit process and after it, that the all-island economy would be protected and that no border infrastructure would reemerge.

"That's the test for us, and regardless of what individual politicians say, what party they belong to, we're not interested in personalities, quite frankly, we're interested in the outcomes and the issues and that continues to be our focus."

On whether reform to the petition of concern could allay the Irish Government's fears over the possible veto, Mr Coveney said the matter was a domestic one, as the crux of the issue lies between the UK and EU, not Northern Ireland.

"We don't have an executive up and running, I wish we had, if there was a will there we could find a basis, I've been working with the Secretary of State on that," he said.

"We need to be clear here, mechanisms that are linked to cross community support in the executive are primarily about issues of competence for the executive on domestic decision-making in Northern Ireland, this is very different, this is the UK as a whole and the EU as a whole, to deal with an international border question.

"The idea that any one party could eventually veto the implementation of those solutions is something that the EU and the Irish Government could never accept.

"The issues around the petition of concern are important issues, but in terms of a Brexit outcome and deal here, when you look at the response in Northern Ireland yesterday, there's only one party in Northern Ireland supporting Boris Johnson's proposals as the basis of deal, no one else is, because there's real problems with it.

"I hope the PM will recognise that and we'll see an evolution of position."

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Mr Coveney said there would be no Brexit deal if the paper put forward by the Prime Minister is the final proposal.

Arlene Foster described Mr Coveney's remarks as "deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent".

"The Irish government’s majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism was one of the reasons why the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected," she said.

"Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no-deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU. We will not buy that," she said.

"The Irish government’s preparedness to dump the consent principle for their country’s expediency is foolish in the extreme and sends a very clear message to unionists.

"From our 2017 Manifesto to Paragraph 50 of the December 2017 Joint Report, the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for specific solutions has been key. 

"It is at the heart of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements, yet the Irish Foreign Minister is now railing against it because it doesn’t suit his agenda."

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