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Tanaiste and Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit, Simon Coveney. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Leah Farrell
Tanaiste and Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit, Simon Coveney. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
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Don’t go back on Brexit deal, Coveney warns Downing St

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has delivered a warning to Downing Street not to go back on the Brexit deal hammered out with the European Union.

Mr Coveney said that hardline Brexiteers were “misrepresenting” the backstop on the Irish border and had failed to produce an alternative to it.

He said the British Cabinet had endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement including the commitment aimed at preventing a hard border, as he made clear it would not be changed.

“A hard border cannot return. Peace and the Good Friday Agreement are more important than Brexit.

“Even in a no-deal Brexit situation every party and every MP in the UK will have a responsibility to ensure there is no return to a hard border and Northern Ireland is protected. That won’t be easy and those who misrepresent the backstop don’t have an alternative to it. With 60 days to go, the people attacking the backstop need to be asked two questions. Firstly, what is their alternative? Secondly, do they wish to protect the peace process?”

With Tory Brexiteers putting pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May to secure a time limit for the backstop, Mr Coveney made it clear that would not be acceptable.

He said: “Skilled UK and EU teams have worked to bring about a Withdrawal Agreement that has been endorsed by 27 governments and the British Cabinet.

“The backstop was negotiated around British red lines.

“The EU has been clear that the backstop is an integral part of the withdrawal agreement. A backstop is not a backstop if it is time limited.”

The backstop, which would see the UK obey EU customs rules if no wider trade agreement is sorted out after a transition period, has been attacked by Brexiteers who say it could keep Britain tied to Brussels indefinitely.

The issue is likely to feature in a Commons Brexit showdown tomorrow after Leave backers tabled amendments to a Government motion calling for major changes to the backstop.

Mr Coveney used Mrs May’s own words to insist that guarantees on the border could not just be aspirational.

“The prime minister was spot on when she added that this is about practicality and a guarantee, not just aspiration.”