Tánaiste makes case for 'hard-won' Brexit deal as British MPs prepare for vote

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has appealed to British MPs to back the new Brexit deal as he conceded an extension is still possible if the agreement is once again rejected by Westminster.

Tánaiste makes case for 'hard-won' Brexit deal as British MPs prepare for vote

- Additional reporting by Eoin English

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has appealed to British MPs to back the new Brexit deal as he conceded an extension is still possible if the agreement is once again rejected by Westminster.

Opposition leaders here gave a mixed reaction to the new EU-UK deal to replace the backstop despite widespread international backing for it as a way to break the Brexit impasse.

"It may not be over yet. A lot depends on the vote in Westminster which I think will be very close either way. But we will stay vigilant. We will follow it closely and if there is more uncertainty after that we have to deal with, we’ll get through that too because of the extraordinary solidarity that we have managed to build and sustain across the European Union," he said.

Speaking in Cork as he opened Senator Colm Burke's new constituency office in Blackpool, Mr Coveney said he "wouldn't give directions to any parliamentarians in the UK".

“Political parties need to make their own decisions. Labour has been advocating for a much 'softer' Brexit than is being proposed by Boris Johnson.

“They do not believe that this deal, particularly in terms of the political declaration element of it, delivers the kind of Brexit they are looking for.

“It is a matter for them in terms of how they vote. That is how democracy works.

“What I would say is that I would advocate for this deal from an Irish perspective. It was hard-won. It protects against the core vulnerabilities being exposed in the context of Brexit particularly around the peace process and border infrastructure.

“The British Parliament needs to make its own decision and it would be very dangerous territory for me to be leaning on anybody or suggesting how anyone else should vote in somebody else's parliament."

Mr Coveney left open the door on the chances of an extension or a further deal for the UK if this one fails.

“If this deal doesn’t pass, well then, there is certainly an obligation on the parliament to try to indicate how a deal can be done if the EU is going to be persuaded to grant a further extension."And I think that is likely to mean an election, a referendum, or some other fundamental change as opposed to just more of the same in terms of what we seen over the last six months.”

Meanwhile, with the deal allowing for a border in the Irish Sea and checkpoints at ports, Fianna Fáil leader Micheá Martin warned of the impacts for firms and exporters.

“It is a hard Brexit for east-west [trade], that is a worry...we need to be conscious of that. It spells a bit of trouble for the agri-food industry and our SMEs who export into Britain."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also believes the deal could deepen sectarian division in the North as it allows for votes on the deal every four or eight years.

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