Tanaiste hits out at Boris Johnson comments as 'unhelpful' and 'extraordinary'

Tanaiste hits out at Boris Johnson comments as 'unhelpful' and 'extraordinary'
Tanaiste Simon Coveney and EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier

By Olivia Kelleher

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has described as "unhelpful" and "extraordinary" claims by Boris Johnson that Theresa May's Brexit strategy had strapped a "suicide vest" around the UK constitution and handed the detonator to Brussels.

Speaking in Cork the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said the controversial comments made by Mr Johnson were "ill judged."

"I think they are very unhelpful comments. And I think they are ill judged and will offend a lot of people."

The Tanaiste said they are working with the Prime Minister and her Government as they attempt to put the basis of a deal in place to allow Britain to leave the European Union in a way that takes account not only of Britain's concerns but also of the concerns of the EU.

"The British Prime Minister to her credit last December made a commitment to people in Northern Ireland and to Ireland generally that she would ensure that there would be no physical border on the island of Ireland in the future and no related checks and controls. And that became known as the Backstop facility.

"Those commitments were made when Boris Johnson was part of that Government. He was there for the two years since the British people decided to leave the European Union in a referendum. He was not speaking out publicly certainly against the Irish backstop at that time."

Mr Coveney said it was "extraordinary" that the former Foreign Secretary was now taking an "aggressive position" to try and "undermine" the work he was involved in as part of the British Government.

"And more importantly to try and undermine the British Prime Minister who is trying to do the impossible at the moment given the division in the British political system among most political parties on the kind of Brexit Britain wants or doesn't want. "

He said the Irish Government will continue to work with the Prime Minister.

"I hope that the people who are trying to undermine her are not successful. Because I think that is going to be very damaging to Britain if they are and I also think it creates huge challenges for us here in Ireland."

Meanwhile, Downing Street has now moved to reprimand Mr Johnson for his comments. The British Prime Minister's spokesman said he did not want to give Mr Johnson's comments "further oxygen" as he insisted Mrs May was "fully focused" on Brexit negotiations.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson described Theresa May's Chequers proposal as a humiliation for Britain, which looked like a seven stone weakling being comically bent out of shape by a 500lb gorilla.

"And the reason is simple: Northern Ireland, and the insanity of the so called 'backstop.' We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution - and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier."

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