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Coveney says Ireland won't get 'dragged out of single market' amid suggestions of 'side deal' with UK

The Tánaise said Ireland will not be dealing with the UK on a one-to-one basis on border issues.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on RTÉ radio this morning.
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on RTÉ radio this morning.
Image: Twitter/rtenews

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said Ireland cannot and will not agree a “side deal” with the UK to avoid a hard border, following suggestions in the UK media that a bilateral agreement could break the Brexit impasse. 

Quoting an unnamed UK minister, The Sun reported today that Prime Minister Boris Johnson favours an arrangement that would see Ireland diverge from EU rules for a temporary period to stay aligned with the UK and avoid a border.

The minister told the paper that this would be in the form of “a bilateral agreement to agree a common rule book for Britain and Ireland”. 

Coveney was not directly asked about the suggestion on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan but repeatedly said that Ireland must not diverge from EU rules, even in the case of a no-deal Brexit. 

We are not going to do a side deal with the UK on a managed no-deal, we can’t because the Irish border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is also the EU border and many things in our economy function on the basis of EU rules and regulations.

“Much of the commentary in London simply doesn’t seem to understand that,” Coveney added. 

People who claim that there can be some side deal between Britain and Ireland that can solve the border issues don’t understand how international trade works.

In a testy interview with Miriam O’Callaghan, Coveney denied that the Irish government was refusing to be upfront about plans for a no-deal Brexit. He said it was incorrect to say Ireland has not been speaking to the UK about no-deal preparations. 

“I think it’s important that you don’t paint something that’s not true, I have spoken about border infrastructure repeatedly,” he said.

What I haven’t done is given all the details of a plan until it’s agreed with the European Commission, but what I have clearly said is that Ireland will need to act with the EU to ensure that we protect our place in the EU single market, otherwise Ireland will get dragged out of the single market by Britain leaving.  

“Of course we are talking to the UK, but we are also outlining the reality to them that we cannot do some kind of side-deal here on a bilateral basis,” he added.

“That doesn’t work in the context of trade and border management when virtually all of the trade issues are determined by EU regulation and law, this has to be an agreement between the UK and the EU, whether people like that uncomfortable reality or not.”

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Rónán Duffy

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