Coveney says time running out for border deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has insisted Ireland will not be used as a “Trojan horse” by Britain during Brexit bargaining but said time is running out for a deal on the border issue.

Talks between the EU and the British government over its exit resume next week, ahead of an EU leaders’ summit to assess progress in October.

Mr Coveney met the North’s secretary James Brokenshire yesterday but insisted “new thinking” was needed as the clock ticks on Britain’s exit.

He said both he and Mr Brokenshire would discuss Britain’s recent Brexit papers but that he would “remind the British government that we are part of a broader EU negotiating team”.

Mr Coveney said: “That is where our strength and negotiation comes from. We are part of a negotiating team that involves 27 countries and a taskforce led by [EU Brexit negotiator] Michel Barnier.”

The warning comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested this week that Ireland could stall the next phase of Brexit negotiations on trading if not enough progress is made on the Irish question.

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Canada, stressed Britain needs to spell out its alternative to a customs deal if it wants the same benefits.

“I would welcome a bit more clarity when it comes to trade,” he said. “The UK government has indicated that they intend to leave the customs union and the single market but they seem to want to continue to have the free trade benefits that come with that and those things just don’t tally.”

Leaders must agree that “sufficient progress” is made on Britain’s exit bill, citizens rights and the border issue by October before talks move onto a future trade deal for London.

Mr Coveney pointedly said not enough had been done yet but he added that there was a lot of discussion to take place between now and October.

However, he was adamant time was running out.

“When the discussions and negotiations move onto phase two, there will be many other issues that may be a priority for the British government and many other interests,” he said. “Effectively this needs to be concluded in the next 14 months or so, so the approval processes on the EU, through the EU parliament and through countries, can take place.”

Meeting business in Dublin yesterday, Mr Brokenshire reiterated Britain would not remain in the EU’s customs union after Brexit in order to allow London negotiate new trade deals.


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