TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has insisted there will be a Brexit deal but warned that the negotiators must “hold their nerve” to achieve it.
He was speaking as British Prime Minister Theresa May was preparing to update her divided cabinet on the Brexit deadlock as Brussels warned that Britain is “more likely than ever before” to crash out of the European Union without a deal.
Mr Coveney was in Luxembourg today for Brexit talks at the General Affairs Council.
He was meeting separately with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier to discuss the current state of play in negotiations, and in particular talks on the backstop on avoiding a hard border.
Responding to comments from European Council president Donald Tusk that a no-deal Brexit was “more likely than ever”, Mr Coveney said Ireland must hold its nerve as negotiations continue and reiterated his position that we will not allow a hard border.
“We shouldn’t be in any way panicked. I never expected agreement to happen this week. I felt it will take until November to get done. Let’s hold our nerve now and continue negotiation,” he told the Evening Echo this morning from Luxembourg.
Mr Coveney added: “I think there will be a deal. I don’t think we’re likely to see a no-deal Brexit. Donald Tusk’s reaction is a reaction to the fact that there was a hope that we would get a deal done this week. That’s now not going to happen but what’s required is for the two negotiating teams to continue after the European leaders meeting this week.
“The border issue is one of the difficult things to get right. The important thing is that we need to hold our head in Ireland. This is going to be a difficult few weeks politically both in London as well as across the European Union. The last 5% of 10% of the deal was always going to be difficult to get right. I am still confident that it will be done but that doesn’t mean that we’re not preparing for other scenarios. We are. I’ll never sign up to a deal that will result in border infrastructure reemerging on the island of Ireland.
“We have guarantees from the British Prime Minister on that and we expect her to follow through,” he added.