Coveney criticises Sinn Féin abstentionist policy amid Brexit votes in Westminster

Coveney criticises Sinn Féin abstentionist policy amid Brexit votes in Westminster

Update 9.30am: The Minister for Foreign Affairs has criticised Sinn Féin over their abstentionist policy in the British Parliament.

It comes following a key vote in Westminster yesterday where an attempt to block a change to British Prime Minister Therea May's trade bill was voted down.

It called for the government to sign up to a customs union if a free-trade deal was not struck with the European Union.

Simon Coveney says as an all island party with seven MPs, Sinn Féin have questions to answer over their non-participation: "I certainly think that it's something that Sinn Féin have to explain because as a democrat, as someone who has spent most of my working life trying to make things happen through legislation and through political debate in the Dáil, it does seem extraordinary that when hugely important decisions are being taken for Ireland Sinn Féin are choosing to sit on their hands in Westminster."

Meanwhile, as the Cabinet prepare to meet at Derrynane House in South Kerry to discuss Brexit contingency plans, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has warned any return to a hard border with the north would be detrimental for young people and peace.

"The young people on the island are used to having no border and that freedom of movement and the opportunities, educationally or healthwise, that that means for them.

"So, it is my hope that whatever is agreed, we continue to have similar opportunities for the young people who are staying on the island in order to make their future here."

Earlier: Cabinet to discuss contingency plans for Brexit at Derrynane House

The Cabinet is meeting in Co Kerry this morning to discuss Brexit contingency plans.

The Taoiseach has said preparations need to be stepped up for a no-deal Brexit.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone

Derrynane House in South Kerry is the location for this morning's Cabinet meeting to discuss contingency plans for a hard Brexit.

The current political instability in Westminster has cast further doubt over what kind of Brexit deal will be hammered out.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says there isn't a clear message from British politicians on what deal they want.

"I think there's a lot of disagreement in terms of what - especially the political leaders - want. That's pretty clear," said Minister Zappone.

But Leo Varadkar has said at the moment there is no need to panic, with Theresa May winning a number of key votes related to Brexit.

A number of government reports have warned the fallout for Ireland will be bad regardless of what the deal is, and Tánaiste Simon Coveney will outline contingency plans at today's meeting.

It is being held at Derrynane House, the ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell - who was known as the Liberator because of his quest for the rights of Irish people under English occupation

The government may be hoping to channel some of that spirit as they prepare for negotiations with Theresa May's government.

In the UK, Ms May is facing a day of questions about Brexit from MPs - as rumours persist that some of her backbenchers are working to oust her.

It is the last day of Parliament before the summer break.

Last night, Ms May saw off the last Conservative rebellion.

It called for the British government to sign up to a customs union if a free-trade deal was not struck with the European Union.

Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is also expected to deliver a resignation speech.

Digital Desk

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