Belfast Telegraph

Irish leaders signal frustration at shifting UK stance on Brexit

Deputy premier Simon Coveney spoke out at a Cabinet away day in County Kerry.

Ireland and the EU are very frustrated at the UK Government’s shifting positions on Brexit, the country’s deputy premier has said.

In a special Brexit meeting taking place at Derrynane House in Co Kerry, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his ministers will thrash out Brexit plans at the ancestral home of Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell.

In an away day for the Cabinet, ministers will discuss contingency plans and prepare for a possible hard Brexit.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arriving at Derrynane House, Kerry (Brian Lawless/PA)

Derrynane House, which is now a museum dedicated to the life of the famous politician who was instrumental in fighting for the rights of Irish people in the late 18th century, was selected as the location for the round-table talks on mounting Brexit issues.

Ahead of the meeting, deputy premier Simon Coveney, who will brief ministers about the recruitment of custom officers and plans for ports and airports, said the Irish Government was continuing to see “confusion” at Westminster following the publication of the White Paper last week.

It is very frustrating for countries like Ireland and many other EU counties, and for the EU task force, to be negotiating with a country that keeps changing its position Simon Coveney

His comments follow a number of amendments to the UK’s Brexit plans which saw the insertion of a legal guarantee that there will be no post-Brexit customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

“What is continuing in Westminster is a dispute in the Conservative Party and British politics generally around the kind of Brexit they are advocating for, so people are looking to undermine other people’s positions, and I don’t think that is helpful but the Irish government is not going to be distracted by that,” Mr Coveney said.

We now finally have what we understand to be a settled British Government position and the amendments over the last two days have looked to undermine that, which is a distraction we can do without Simon Coveney

“All we are seeing is the use of legislative process in Westminster to make political points from different factions within the Conservative Party and within the British political system and I think it would be very foolish to overreact to that.

“Because of the political disputes this week people are talking up a no-deal Brexit, which I think is very, very unlikely.

“It is very frustrating for countries like Ireland and many other EU counties, and for the EU task force, to be negotiating with a country that keeps changing its position.”

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sits in front of a portrait of Daniel O’Connell at Derrynane House (Brian Lawless/PA)

He pointed to the number of recent high-profile resignations within the British Cabinet including former Brexit secretary David Davis and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Foreign Affairs minister Mr Coveney said it was a “struggle” for the British political system to deal with the complex issues of Brexit.

He added: “We have to prepare for all outcomes and that is why we are focusing today on taking another step forward in preparing for a new relationship between East/West.

“What’s being proposed by Britain needs and deserves in-depth consideration and consultation as to whether it is legally possible to accommodate what they are looking for.

“We now finally have what we understand to be a settled British Government position and the amendments over the last two days have looked to undermine that, which is a distraction we can do without.”

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