Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said UK proposals to replace the backstop are “not even close” to being an alternative as the impasse over Brexit continues.
His comments came amid fresh speculation that London wants to keep the North aligned with EU trade rules, a move that could prevent any new border checks. The plan could allow the UK pursue free trade deals with other countries, the Wall Street Journal suggests.
Mr Coveney ruled out proposals circulating to replace the backstop, the insurance policy to prevent any new border with the North.
A Conservative Party-backed paper has proposed a new shared food safety and animal health area covering both islands of Ireland and Britain. The plan was concocted by the Tory party’s Alternative Arrangements Commission, which said this would remove a need for the backstop.
However, Mr Coveney said:
I think we need to be honest here, that the alternative arrangements that have been discussed to date do not do the same job as the backstop, not even close.
Irish officials have suggested the plan would be akin to Ireland leaving the EU’s single market. Meanwhile, consumer fears of a disorderly Brexit are growing, said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.
However, despite the growing likelihood of Britain leaving the EU at the end of October, there are no plans to delay the Government’s budget or pull back spending next year. It has also emerged that spending and costs in health are being monitored.
Mr Donohoe was speaking ahead of the first post-summer Cabinet next week, which will consider the latest developments on Brexit. He ruled out Brexit impacting on the latest employment figures. Half-year figures show that an extra 40,000 jobs were created this year, he noted.
“They [the figures] show more people are at work than we have ever had before... the trend for Q2 alone, I don’t see reflecting a Brexit point for now but I would acknowledge — as some economic indicators have pointed to — that there is a growing concern from a consumer sentiment and investor point of view regarding the effect that Brexit may have on our economy.”
Mr Coveney continues visits to EU capitals to meet his counterparts and to promote the backstop and Ireland’s concerns about Brexit.