Coveney: Liam Fox’s comments ‘unhelpful’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has strongly rejected British government claims that the UK is being “blackmailed” by Ireland and the other EU countries in ongoing Brexit talks.

Mr Coveney said such comments from British minister Liam Fox were “unhelpful” and said that while talks between the EU and the UK last week were “very difficult” he said he welcomed the progress made on Irish issues.

Mr Coveney said he and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar deliberately hardened the position of the Government about the prospects of technology being used to monitor traffic moving between the Republic and Northern Ireland, saying it was “nonsense”.

“We needed to kill that because it is nonsense, once you begin that you create a border, that is a big step forward,” he said.

A spokeswoman for prime minister Theresa May has denied a Sunday Times report that she was preparing to pay a Brexit divorce bill of up to £50 billion to the EU.

Mr Coveney said the solution was for the UK to remain in the Customs Union, a call echoed by a cross-party committee in Westminster. Their report spelt out clearly the dangers posed to the island of Ireland as a result of the UK leaving the Customs Union.

The committee, co-chaired by a Tory and a Labour MP, describes the decision to leave the customs union as; “a reckless and economically dangerous self-inflicted wound”.

The report calls out the UK government’s recent paper on future customs arrangements as being; ‘overly optimistic to the point of being irresponsible and equally vague’, while slamming the government for having done very little domestic work to prepare.

Mrs May warned lawmakers that Britain could be faced with a Brexit “cliff edge” if they failed to back her EU repeal bill, as reports suggested momentum was growing within her party to unseat her.

With British lawmakers readying for their first full parliamentary debate on the legislation that will sever the country’s ties with the European Union, the minister responsible for overseeing the divorce proceedings admitted yesterday that some payments would continue to Brussels after Britain left.

Mrs May failed to win a clear mandate at a snap election in June and only has a slim majority in parliament that rests on an agreement with a smaller party.

She remains vulnerable if pro-European lawmakers in her Conservative party team up with other parties to vote down legislation or support amendments.

In Thursday’s debate, the main opposition Labour Party is planning to propose several changes to the repeal bill with a view to keeping Britain in the single market and customs union during a Brexit transition period after 2019, according to The Times.

On Saturday, Mrs May’s deputy advised Conservative lawmakers against doing anything that would increase Labour’s chances of returning to power, while Mrs May said the bill was the best way to ensure a successful Brexit.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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