‘Stub­born’ stance on Brexit not a ‘land grab’

Si­mon Coveney in­sists UK gov­ern­ment must come up with ‘cred­i­ble’ so­lu­tions

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - TODAY IN YOUR SUNDAY INDEPENDENT - Mark O’Re­gan

IRE­LAND’S “stub­born” stance in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions is not a “land grab” for North­ern Ire­land, Si­mon Coveney has said.

And the For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter stressed Bri­tain did not have the right demo­crat­i­cally to de­cide or shape Ire­land’s fu­ture.

He also warned min­is­ters must take a strong po­si­tion in the ne­go­ti­a­tions on Bri­tain’s with­drawal from the Euro­pean Union.

In a hard-hit­ting speech dur­ing a session on Brexit at the Fine Gael na­tional con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, he told del­e­gates there could be no change to the reg­u­la­tory or cus­toms rules, which would neg­a­tively im­pact cross-bor­der trade.

He called on the UK gov­ern­ment to pro­vide “cred­i­ble and real an­swers” about what would hap­pen to the 310-mile fron­tier.

“Bri­tain does not have the right on its own to shape our fu­ture as Ire­land in the con­text of the re­la­tion­ship that we have with the United King­dom,” he said

“It seems es­sen­tial to us that there is no emer­gence of reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence from the rules of the in­ter­nal market, or the cus­toms union, which are nec­es­sary from mean­ing­ful North-South co­op­er­a­tion, or an all-Ire­land econ­omy, that is con­sis­tent with the Good Fri­day Agree­ment.”

He stressed the Gov­ern­ment would not wa­ver from this “con­sis­tent, firm and stub­born po­si­tion that Ire­land has held for some time”.

He said it was up to Ire­land and Bri­tain to work to­gether to find so­lu­tions for the Bor­der, which will not neg­a­tively im­pact the Good Fri­day Agree­ment.

“Brexit is the most im­por­tant ne­go­ti­a­tion of our time. It is go­ing to be what shapes our re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean Union and the UK.

“We have an in­ter­wo­ven re­la­tion­ship with the UK which sim­ply can­not be un­done”.

A bor­der of con­crete bol­lards and cars be­ing stopped could never be al­lowed to reemerge, he added.

“On this is­land we are in the busi­ness of build­ing bridges not bor­ders,” he added.

Dur­ing yes­ter­day’s session, he stressed there should be no “reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence” post Brexit, in or­der to keep a “func­tion­ing all-is­land econ­omy”.

He also warned a no-deal Brexit sce­nario would lead to sig­nif­i­cant levies, such as 60pc on beef.

“We need a fu­ture trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain. Our re­la­tion­ship and our eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship will re­main strong.”

Mean­while, in his first speech to a Fine Gael na­tional con­fer­ence as party leader, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar, re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion that there could be no re­turn to a bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land.

He also stressed that it was his pri­or­ity that Ire­land re­main at the heart of Europe.

“I want to re­as­sure all bor­der com­mu­ni­ties that we are lis­ten­ing to you, we hear your con­cerns and we prom­ise you that we will safe­guard your rights, and all that we have achieved,” he said.

Ad­dress­ing his party faith­ful in the Slieve Rus­sell Ho­tel in Ca­van, he re­peated his in­sis­tence about the fu­ture of the open bor­der.

“A shared space is not a lost space. So on this is­land, let’s build bridges, not bor­ders.

This came as MPs prop­ping up Theresa May’s UK gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day warned they “will not ac­cept” a deal with Brus­sels that weak­ens North­ern Ire­land’s re­la­tion­ship with the rest of the UK.

Nigel Dodds, who leads the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party’s group of 10 MPs, said the Euro­pean Union was fail­ing “to en­gage in a mean­ing­ful fash­ion” over the bor­der be­tween Ire­land and Ul­ster.

He also re­jected a claim that North­ern Ire­land or the UK as a whole must con­tinue to abide by the rules of the EU sin­gle market and cus­toms union in or­der to avoid a “hard bor­der”.

SHAPE: Coveney says there is no ‘grab’ for North­ern Ire­land

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