Tánaiste Simon Coveney. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Anthony Neeson
The Tánaiste has warned the UK government to keep to the commitments it made in December to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
While reports in Germany indicate that the EU and the UK have reached a deal, British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a backlash from right-wing Brexiteers within her own party, as well as a threat of withdrawal of support from the ten DUP MPs who are propping up her minority government.
Speaking as he arrived in Brussels with negotiations temporarily stalled, Simon Coveney said: “Those commitments have been made in writing by the British government, and what we’re saying is we want no more and no less than the follow through of those commitments. That’s what needs to happen.”
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He added: “A backstop can’t be time-limited… nobody was suggesting in March that a backstop was time-limited, in terms of picking a date in the future [for] ending the backstop.
“We’re not looking for anything new here. We’re simply looking for the commitments made last December, and in particular last March, to be followed through on.
“Last December it was agreed that in the absence of agreeing something better there would be a backstop in place, which essentially means that the UK would maintain full alignment with the rules of Customs Union and Single Market in areas necessary to protect North-South cooperation, an all-island economy and the peace process.
“Then in March, the commitment was very clear that that backstop would be legally operable in terms of text in the Withdrawal Agreement. And it would be there unless and until something better was agreed.”
Mr. Coveney said it would take more time now to reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Brexit spokesperson, David Cullinan TD, has called on the EU to hold firm on the backstop proposals.
“The Brexit talks are in disarray,” he warned.
“The hard right of the Tory Party, in tandem with the DUP, are pushing to scupper the backstop and inflict a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“The EU and the Irish government must not allow this to happen.
“The people of the North did not vote for Brexit and this needs to be respected.”