Ireland will not back down over border, Tánaiste tells Dáil

Tánaiste Simon Coveney remains resolute that Ireland will not back down on a Brexit border agreement being stalled by the DUP.

As Brexit talks remain deadlocked, Mr Coveney said the Irish Government has acted in a consistent way for many months and does not intend to move away from its position.

The comments came as the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, extended the deadline given to British Prime Minister Theresa May to come up with a solution to the border issue.

The crunch EU leaders’ summit takes place next Thursday.

Mr Coveney said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would consider any other proposals which the British government may offer but the core of last Monday’s text would have to remain.

“At the start of the week, we had agreement on a text which was subsequently not confirmed. We are now in a position whereby we need to find a way forward. Let me be very clear,” Mr Coveney told the Dáil.

“The core issues on which Ireland got agreement at the start of the week are not changing and, as I said, are in the interests of the island and the relationships on it north and south, east and west, and between different communities and political parties.

“We have maintained and will continue to maintain that position.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald pressed Mr Coveney on whether the Government could ensure that Northern Ireland remains within the Customs Union and the Single Market.

“Anything short of this will guarantee a Brexit border between North and south and the ensuing economic and political chaos,” she said.

Mr Coveney confirmed the position of the Government had not changed but described it as “a sensitive negotiation at a very sensitive time”.

He told Ms McDonald that he would not be giving any statement which might “stoke up what is already a difficult relationship management exercise”.

“Most people in the House will understand the sensitivities of that and the reasons why I should be somewhat cautious about what I say and how I say it,” he said during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil

Mr Coveney added: “The Taoiseach and I intend to hold to what we said this week. Of course, we also want to be helpful in trying terms of trying to move this process on and provide reassurance for people on all sides that what the Government is advocating for is good for everyone living on the island and can also be good for Britain.

“We will not support anything that, in our view, risks the re-emergence of a hard border on the island in the context of these negotiations.”

Meanwhile, the Green Party has called on the DUP to commit to making better use of the North-South Ministerial Council as part of future arrangements on the border, following Brexit.

The party’s spokesman on political reform, Oliver Moran, said: “The Good Friday agreement specifically calls out the North-South Ministerial Council as being the place ‘to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes’.

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