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Coveney ‘hopes UK government will be pragmatic’ in Brexit transition delay

The Tanaiste said the consequences of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are “extraordinarily important” for Britain and the EU.

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The Tanaiste said Brexit had become less of a priority amid the coronavirus pandemic (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Tanaiste said Brexit had become less of a priority amid the coronavirus pandemic (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Tanaiste said Brexit had become less of a priority amid the coronavirus pandemic (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he “hopes” the UK government will be “pragmatic” in what it seeks regarding the Brexit transition period.

Mr Coveney said the consequences of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are “extraordinarily important” for Britain and the EU.

He stopped short of calling for the British government to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of this year.

Speaking in Dublin’s Government Buildings on Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Minister described the timeline for Brexit as “extraordinarily ambitious”.

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Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he hoped the UK government would be pragmatic (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he hoped the UK government would be pragmatic (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he hoped the UK government would be pragmatic (Brian Lawless/PA)

“As someone who was living, and breathing and sleeping Brexit for about two years, it’s amazing how a focus on a priority changes and there aren’t too many people asking about Brexit now because we are in the midst of a national crisis relating to public health and so is the UK,” Mr Coveney said.

“I would hope that the British government would be pragmatic in relation to what they seek and that the EU negotiating team would be pragmatic also.

“The timelines for Brexit before Covid-19 emerged on the scene were extraordinarily ambitious and very difficult to comply with so let’s wait to see how that conversation develops.

“I learnt not to be giving advice to the British government from Dublin, it generally doesn’t go down too well.

“They will make their own decisions as they always do but I do think that in the medium term the consequences of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are extraordinarily important for Britain, for Ireland and for the EU collectively.

“I think we need to ensure that the time and space is available to do that properly and right now there are other priorities to keep people alive that should be the focus of Government attention.

“I’ll leave it to the British government about what they want to ask but I am confident that the EU will respond generously to a request for an extension.”

Turning to Irish Government formation talks, Mr Coveney said that his party, Fine Gael, had a “good day” in its discussions with Fianna Fail.

The global health crisis has put pressure on the talks process, however neither party have enough seats to form a majority government.

Following the general election outcome in February, Fine Gael emerged with 35 seats and Fianna Fail with 37 seats – below the 80 seats needed to form a government.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“I think the two parties are really working now to try to make an important step forward,” Mr Coveney added.

“The Taoiseach (Leo Varadkar) has talked about the two parties trying to agree a sort of framework document that I hope can be persuasive in terms of inviting other parties to join us in the efforts of designing a programme for government through these extraordinary times.

“That’s why my belief is that Ireland does need a government that has a majority and has the mandate of the authority to be able to give leadership through this very difficult period but also plan for what comes next.”

PA