The Government has rejected suggestions of a five-year time limit on the Brexit backstop.
Former European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton made the suggestion at the weekend, triggering speculation that a compromise with Britain may be on the cards.
Ms Creighton said there must be a compromise with British prime minister Boris Johnson to avert a no-deal and economic disaster due to Brexit. She said a five year limit on the backstop — a guarantee there will be no hard border with Brexit — should be accompanied by doing a trade deal in that time.
A public affairs consultant, Ms Creighton was previously a key figure in Fine Gael, a former minister as well as a close friend of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
While the British press has seized on her idea, Government figures quickly dismissed it as unworkable and contrary to the spirit of the withdrawal agreement and the backstop.
European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee immediately ruled out the proposal.
“We have always been clear — and this is also from an EU point of view, not just Ireland — a backstop with a time limit ceases to be a backstop,” said Ms McEntee.
It exists as an insurance mechanism. It is there based on the fact the UK has decided to leave.
The backstop provided the necessary legal guarantee to prevent a new border, she said.
“For us, adding a time limit stops it from being an insurance mechanism,” said Ms McEntee.
She pointed out that there was already a firm commitment within the deal for the EU to look at arrangements with Britain within the Brexit transition period. Ms McEntee also disagreed with recent suggestions from Mr Johnson that the Brexit withdrawal agreement is “dead”.
“I don’t accept that,” said Ms McEntee. “I think that the withdrawal agreement was negotiated over two and a half years and by the UK. They themselves have said that, in a no-deal scenario, they would engage very quickly with the EU.”
She added that the EU has said a time limit would “not be acceptable,” adding: “We don’t even know if it is acceptable in the UK either.
The House of Commons has not returned and we heard previously from the [British] prime minister himself that he would not accept a time limit on the backstop.
Other Government sources close to Mr Varadkar dismissed time limit.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney criticised weekend suggestions that British police could be moved to the North after a no-deal Brexit.
“Talk of more PSNI officers to deal with the tensions and frictions that may come with the border and talk of drafting in police officers from other parts of the UK is the last thing we want to be talking about when there is a deal on the table that solves this problem, and that is the deal that we will continue to advocate for,” said Mr Coveney.