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14th May 2018

Ireland has to, once again, politely remind Britain of its own Brexit border promise

Michael Lanigan

Coveney Brexit

“We are simply asking that that commitment be followed through on.”

Simon Coveney has called on the British government to honour its commitment to creating no border infrastructure of any kind in Ireland.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs said that he expected Prime Minister Theresa May to agree upon a solution that would permit regulatory alignment as she promised both in December and March.

“It would be helpful if the British Government actually had some consensus around this concept, as opposed to consensus around something else, which people seem to think might work – using technology or some other way of creating as seamless a border as possible, but nevertheless border infrastructure,” Coveney said.

“Let’s not forget what’s being agreed in these negotiations to date, because last December there was a clear agreement that the British Prime Minister signed up to; that there would be no border infrastructure of any kind on the island of Ireland and no releated checks or controls.

“That means we’re not talking about cameras and scanning systems and drones here. It means we’re talking about a political solution that allows for regulatory alignment in a way that prevents the need for border infrastructure.”

When asked by host Nick Robinson if Ireland was not just “restating a hope” – the hope that the UK remains in the EU, in the single market or the customs union – Coveney refuted this claim, saying: “We’re not restating a hope. We expect a clear commitment that was made by the British Government in black and white in December and repeated again in March.

“We are simply asking that that commitment be followed through on.”

The interview came ahead of the Tánaiste’s planned visit to Brussels on Monday to attend the General Affairs Council with Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD.

This will include a meeting of the Council in Article 50 formation to discuss the Brexit negotiations, while the Tánaiste also plans to attend a bilateral meeting with the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, prior to the Council meeting.

In a statement, the Tánaiste said that before “another crucial stage in the Brexit negotiations”, he intends to “stress the need to make significant progress by June on agreeing the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, including on the backstop for avoiding a hard border.

“The EU27 share our concerns about the current state of negotiations and have been clear that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far by the UK are respected, including on the backstop,” Coveney said.

“Following our meeting in Dundalk at the end of April, I will also have a bilateral meeting with Michel Barnier to continue our discussions on how we advance agreement on the backstop by June taking account of recent developments in the negotiations.”

The General Affairs Council will be the first opportunity for both Ministers Coveney and McEntee to exchange their views on the European Commission’s proposals for the multi-annual financial framework and the budget for the European Union from 2021 to 2027.

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