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'Time to level with people': Coveney says customs checks after no-deal will be temporary and away from the border

He said a timeline for how long the checks would be operational will have to be agreed.

Simon Coveney says no workable alternatives to the backstop have been proposed by the UK.
Simon Coveney says no workable alternatives to the backstop have been proposed by the UK.
Image: Christina Finn

TANAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said any customs checks imposed in a no-deal scenario will not be permanent. 

Speaking at the Fine Gael’s annual think-in in Cork this morning, Coveney said the Irish government now needs “to level with people” in terms of what a no-deal Brexit actually means.

“We shouldn’t be sugar-coating anything,” he said, outlining to reporters that checks will return to Ireland, though they will not be along the border.

“We don’t regard those checks that may be needed in a no-deal as a permanent arrangement – not by a long shot”.

He said any new checks imposed will be temporary until a better trade deal is arrived at, adding that any such deal requires a commitment on the Irish border issue.

The Irish government has a dual responsibility to both the peace process and the EU Single Market. 

Protect the EU Single Market

In a no-deal scenario, the Tánaiste said the Irish government would be forced to protect Ireland’s place in the EU Single Market “by having some checking system somewhere – away from the border that can reassure the rest of the EU that Ireland’s place in the Single Market is protected and the integrity of the market that we all enjoy will be protected too and that is important for Irish consumers too”.

Any checks will be “a temporary arrangement to protect our place in the Single Market while we continue to negotiate for the kind of arrangement on the Irish border that the British government has committed to in the past in writing”, he said.

He added that a timeline for how long the temporary checks will be operational will have to be agreed with the EU Commission.

“We need to protect our place in the EU Single Market, otherwise, we will be dragged out of the EU’s Single Market by Britain leaving without a deal. And we can’t accept that. I don’t think anybody would expect us to,” added Coveney.

His comments come as the Operation Yellowhammer document, which was officially released last night, outlined the “worst case scenario” for the UK.

Boris Johnson’s government had been massively accelerating no-deal preparations since he became prime minister, while an alternative to the Irish backstop to be put forward is also being called for. 

Irish backstop 

Johnson has maintained that the backstop would have to be removed from the withdrawal agreement if a deal was to be struck. 

When asked about what alternatives, if any, have been proposed to the EU task force. 

“If you look at the evidence, as opposed to the language that’s being used, it’s difficult not to be skeptical,” said Coveney, adding:

“There hasn’t been any substantive proposals from the British negotiating team… we know that. There certainly hasn’t been any proposal that comes close to doing what the backdrop does. So It’s easy to be skeptical here. It’s easy to be negative here. But I think the job of politicians is actually to try and find a way through the fog.”

In terms of the impact Brexit will have on some sectors, and what financial supports will be given, Coveney said the majority of supports for industry and business will come from the Irish Exchequer, rather than the EU.

However, he added that there will be dedicated EU funds for the agriculture sector as well some compensation targeted at job losses that may be sustained. 

He said the funds required to some sectors, that will bear the brunt of Brexit, “will be significant”.

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