Belfast Telegraph

Ireland’s deputy leader accuses UK of ‘wiping slate clean’ on Irish issue

Simon Coveney said it was necessary to follow through on commitments made.

A man looks across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)
A man looks across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Irish deputy leader has accused the British government of “wiping the slate clean” regarding promises made over Brexit.

Speaking at a gathering of business leaders in Paris on Wednesday, Simon Coveney, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that the current stance of the British government was asking the EU to disregard the proposed backstop arrangement on “the back of a promise”.

“We have a British government who seems to be wiping the slate clean on the Irish issue,” Mr Coveney said.

“We must ensure that the commitments that took two years to negotiate to deal with the complexity of those issues on the island of Ireland are actually followed through on.

We're not going to compromise on a peace process that is fragile right now on the island of Ireland Simon Coveney

“Unfortunately what we are hearing today from the British Minister for Brexit is that Britain no longer seems to be committed to that approach, which we know solves the problem at hand, and instead wants everyone to move forward and agree on the basis of a promise that we would try and deal with these issues at some point in the future.

“We can’t give up on something that we know works on the back of a promise without any idea as to how it’s going to work.

“We can never sign an agreement with that approach, we’ve always said if there is to be a no-deal Brexit, it will be the choice of a British prime minister and British government that will make that happen.

“We’re not going to compromise on a peace process that is fragile right now on the island of Ireland.

“A peace agreement that has saved lives and that has created normality between communities that in the past were in conflict.”

Asked whether he was surprised the Prime Minister Boris Johnson had not met with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, Mr Coveney downplayed the lack of official visit.

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Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

“They have spoken over the phone and Prime Minister Johnson is due to come to Dublin in early September, so that meeting is going to happen soon,” he said.

“It would be wrong to say the British and Irish governments haven’t spoken, I have spoken to Steve Barclay a number of times, I’ve spoken to Dominic Raab and Julian Smith, so there is of course an ongoing conversation between Britain and Ireland – but that isn’t delivering an agreement.

“This is a decision between Britain and the EU collectively, we spent many months putting together a Withdrawal Agreement which was a compromise on both sides in order to get a fair deal for the UK and acceptable to the EU.”

At the same event, the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the UK Government is “aiming for a deal” but ready for a hard Brexit.

“The British Government are aiming for a deal,” he said.

“A deal that honours the Belfast Good Friday Agreement but without the backstop, as the UK Parliament has made clear.

“That is what our Government seeks and, with goodwill on all sides, it is what we can deliver.”

PA

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