Coveney: Ireland won't be pressurised on border

Coveney: Ireland won't be pressurised on border
Pic: Julien Behal Photography

By Olivia Kelleher

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has stressed that Ireland will not be pressurised into a position of having to make concessions on the border in the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking at Brexit workshop in Cork the Minister for Foreign Affairs said the border situation was very clear and straightforward.

"Ireland will never sign up to a withdrawal treaty that doesn't protect the Good Friday Agreement, protect the peace process on the island of Ireland for nationalists and Unionists and that doesn't follow through on the commitments that have been given to Ireland guaranteeing no future border infrastructure on this island.

"They are commitments that were given last December. They are commitments that were given again last March when the British Prime Minister committed to legally operable text in the withdrawal treaty to that effect."

He said that it was his belief that the British Prime minister is absolutely sincere in her commitment to Ireland in Brexit as well as advocating for Britain's interests.

I think she wants to follow through on that. I think she understands the complexities of the peace process and the fragility of relationships on the island of Ireland.

He said Ireland will continue to insist on follow through on the commitments that have been made to Ireland that there will be no physical border infrastructure on the island of Ireland.

"We don't want any borders and barriers down the Irish sea either by the way and so that is the approach we have taken but we will insist on any final agreement on any future relationship or on a withdrawal treaty that the commitments that have been made to Ireland on peace, on borders will be followed through on fully.

"That is what we are trying to conclude over the next two weeks or so."

He said the two negotiating teams need to hammer out a deal that is acceptable in Britain and the EU.

"So we now need to get down to the business of agreeing a legal text to follow through on those political commitments. That is what the next two weeks will be about.

"That is why the negotiating teams need to lock themselves in a room and get this done over the next ten days so they can come out with text and recommendations for political leaders to make decisions on the back of. I believe that is do able."

He stressed that what is required now is the intensification of the negotiations in Brussels.

He said the withdrawal treaty needs to be agreed in the next couple of weeks and ratified by the British Parliament and the EU Parliament and individual member states before Britain leaves at the end of March next year.

"I believe we can do this. I hope it can be done in the next couple of weeks so that EU leaders can make decisions as early as the next Leader's Summit on the 18th of October.

"We owe it to businesses. They are the people who are trying to plan for the future."

He stressed that he was hoping for a two year transition period which buys everyone time so we can tease through the detail of what a future trading relationship might look like.

"So it is important to look at the Brexit challenge and to deal with them step by step. That is why there will be an intensive focus on the Irish backstop and the Irish border issue to resolve it in a way that the British Prime Minister has committed to in the context of reassuring people on the island of Ireland and in Northern Ireland in

particular nationalist and unionist."

He added that it was regreful that Britain hadmade a decision to leave the European Union.

"We also really regret that they have gone beyond that and made the decision politically to leave the Customs Union and Single Market as well.

"But even with those decisions made we have advocated and continue to advocate for the closest possible relationship with Britain in to the future.

"We will continue to insist on the Good Friday agreement being the foundation and the basis for peace on this island."

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