LONDON — Ireland wants the U.K. to be able to leave the EU with a Brexit agreement, but not at the cost of damage to the peace and economy of Ireland, Simon Coveney said.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program this morning, the Irish deputy prime minister said: “We want to find a solution, we want to get a deal, and we want to allow the U.K. to leave the EU in an orderly and sensible manner, but we cannot allow Ireland to be the collateral damage of that.
“I think for Britain to ask us to do that [remove the Irish backstop without an alternative in place] is a very unreasonable request, and it won’t be the basis of a deal.”
Coveney was responding to a comment by the U.K.’s Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, who suggested on Thursday that the final details of an alternative solution to the Irish backstop may not need to be resolved until the end of 2020. Barclay is due to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier today in Brussels.
The British government and the European Commission also said Thursday that the U.K.’s Brexit negotiators have submitted documents setting out “ideas” on replacing the backstop, the mechanism to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Coveney said that Dublin is being asked to replace a “guarantee around the border question” with a promise that “somehow well do our best to try to solve this issue in the future but we don’t know how just yet.”
He added that while the “mood music” is improving over Brexit negotiations, a “big gap” remains between the U.K. and the EU on alternatives to the backstop.
“And in order to close that gap we need to get credible proposals from the British government, which we simply haven’t received yet,” he said.
Coveney also reiterated his warning that a no-deal would be catastrophic for Ireland, calling the scenario “very damaging, it’s very difficult, and it poses huge questions for politics and potentially for the management of civic unrest in the context of Northern Ireland around the border.”