Simon Coveney has warned the British prime minister Ireland will not be “steam-rolled” into any deal which drags this country out of the EU to solve the Brexit crisis.
The Tánaiste rubbished the suggestion after reports in Britain claimed Ireland could de-align itself from EU rules for an unspecified period of time — freeing up Britain to leave the EU and avoid a no deal hard border.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan before travelling to Denmark for the first stop in a week-long Brexit support tour, Mr Coveney said a no-deal Brexit is “certainly far more likely than any time in the past now”.
However, he repeatedly rejected any possibility of Ireland backing away from the backstop or limiting our links to the rest of the EU to save Britain, insisting either option will not happen. He said:
Mr Coveney said Ireland is now a “confident young country now that expects to negotiate with the UK on an equal basis” and is not interested in becoming “collateral damage” in Brexit.
While saying the Government is still keen to find a solution to the stand-off surrounding the Irish border, Mr Coveney said he and his cabinet colleagues have no interest in any “side deal with the UK”.
“We are not going to do a side deal with the UK on a managed no-deal, we can’t, because the Irish border is also the EU border, and many things in our economy function on the basis of EU rules and regulations.
“Much of the commentary in the UK doesn’t seem to understand that. People who claim there can be some side deal between the UK and Ireland that can solve the border issues don’t understand how international trade works.
“We are not going to abandon a solution we know works to one where we muddle on,” he said.
Mr Coveney was speaking as Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan told Mr Johnson and Brexiteers to “get real” about the realities they risk inflicting on their country.
Asked at the Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford, Co Louth, about Brexit, Mr Hogan — a close ally of European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker — said:
“The UK government needs to take responsibility for its choices before it is too late. Prime minister Johnson’s hero is Winston Churchill, and he seems to view himself as a modern-day Churchill. However, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government’s only Churchillian legacy will be ‘never have so few done so much damage to so many’.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs last night urged Irish businesses to ensure they are fully prepared for Brexit, reminding them they have just 10 weeks to put protections in place.
In a statement, the department said smaller businesses which may not realise they are trading with Britain; construction firms; agri-food companies; retail outlets; and hauliers are at most risk if the worst-case Brexit unfolds.