Dublin says Brexit deal must in­clude agree­ment’s ‘core is­sues’

Western Mail - - NEWS - David Young news­[email protected]­line.co.uk

IRE­LAND will not back any Brexit di­vorce deal that al­ters the core prin­ci­ples of this week’s ill-fated draft UK/EU agree­ment, its deputy pre­mier has in­sisted.

Si­mon Coveney said the Dublin gov­ern­ment would con­sider al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als if any are forth­com­ing from Lon­don, but stressed it would not coun­te­nance any­thing that fell short of the as­sur­ances it needs over the shape of the bor­der post Brexit.

The Tanaiste told the Dail: “We are in a po­si­tion where we still need to find a way for­ward but, let me be very clear, the core is­sues that Ire­land got agree­ment on at the start of this week are not chang­ing.”

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May is fac­ing a high-pres­sure race against time to make progress in talks with Brussels amid a dead­lock over the bor­der.

Mrs May is hop­ing to make a new of­fer by Fri­day to sat­isfy both Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land’s Demo­cratic Union­ist Party which props up her Gov­ern­ment and scup­pered a deal on di­vorce is­sues on Mon­day.

The mooted agree­ment be­tween the UK and EU, which en­vis­aged the align­ment of reg­u­la­tions north and south to main­tain free flow of goods, was tor­pe­doed af­ter the DUP re­jected it.

Mr Coveney in­sisted Ire­land was ad­vo­cat­ing a so­lu­tion that would ben­e­fit all the peo­ple of the is­land and also Bri­tain.

“There are lots of is­sues that are sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tion,” he said. “We ac­cept that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is try­ing to move this process for­ward in good faith. We want to work with them on that, and not against them.

“But Ire­land has real con­cerns and they are im­por­tant to this coun­try and its fu­ture and they are im­por­tant to this is­land and its fu­ture and we have an obli­ga­tion to en­sure we act ac­cord­ingly.”

The se­nior Fine Gael TD added: “We will not sup­port any­thing that in our view risks the re-emer­gence of a hard bor­der on this is­land in the con­text of these ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Sinn Fein urged Mr Coveney to go fur­ther, and state that his gov­ern­ment would not sign up to any deal that saw North­ern Ire­land leave the for­mal cus­toms union and sin­gle mar­ket struc­tures.

The Tanaiste de­clined, adding: “This is a sen­si­tive ne­go­ti­a­tion at a very, very sen­si­tive time so what you are not go­ing to get from me is state­ments that are go­ing to stoke up what is al­ready a dif­fi­cult relationship man­age­ment ex­er­cise.”

Pres­sure is grow­ing on Mrs May to get lead­ers at the De­cem­ber 14 Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit to de­clare suf­fi­cient progress has been made on di­vorce is­sues so trade talks can be­gin, with business chiefs warn­ing com­pa­nies will ac­ti­vate con­tin­gency plans that will cost Bri­tain jobs if there is fur­ther de­lay.

Af­ter talks in Dublin on Wed­nes­day night, Ir­ish Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar and Dutch PM Mark Rutte made clear the EU would not com­pro­mise and al­low the Ir­ish bor­der to be kicked down the road to phase two of the talks, even un­der threat of Bri­tain crash­ing out with no deal or di­vorce

> Theresa May is un­der pres­sure to make

> Tanaiste Si­mon Coveney

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