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Tánaiste Simon Coveney Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
backstop

Coveney says no-deal Brexit will be 'a disaster for us all'

The Tánaiste says he and others have worked for three years to avoid such a scenario.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Jul 2019

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said, regardless of who is the British prime minister, a no-deal Brexit “will be a disaster for us all”.

A new prime minister is set to be announced this week, with pro-Brexit Boris Johnson the favourite to succeed Theresa May.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Coveney said Ireland “will work closely with the new prime minister to advance our shared interests, notably safeguarding peace on our island — the single biggest achievement we share with successive British governments”.

Following a deadline extension, Britain is due to leave the European Union on 31 October. Plans are being made at British, Irish and European level in the event of a no-deal scenario, which seems increasingly likely.

The Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister said the decisions made by the new prime minister, be it Johnson or current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in the coming months will impact both people living in the UK and people living in Ireland.

‘One red line’ 

In the column, Coveney stated that Ireland has “one red line” in relation to Brexit, namely that “nothing should be done to put at risk peace on the island of Ireland”.

The UK honoured its responsibility by negotiating the backstop as an insurance policy that ensures that a hard border would be avoided and the all-island economy would be protected. The goal on our side remains a future relationship between the EU and the UK that makes the backstop unnecessary.

Coveney said if Britain decides to leave the EU without a deal, “it would cause huge damage to us all”, adding that such a scenario would “devastate the Northern Irish economy”. 

He said the Withdrawal Agreement, which has been rejected by the House of Commons three times, is “a balanced document that deals with the interests of all parties and is not something that is up for renegotiation”.

‘A British choice’

Coveney echoed these sentiments in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying: “This is a British choice. We all want to avoid a no-deal Brexit and we have worked for three years to try to do that.

“I have done very little else in politics apart from focus on the choice of the British people to leave the European Union, and its impact on Ireland and the EU.”  

On Thursday, MPs in Westminster backed a bid to stop the new prime minister from suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit – 315 MPs voted in favour of the amendment, while 274 voted against it.

Hunt has ruled out suspending parliament if he is voted in as leader, but Johnson has not.

Backstop 

The Conservatives do not have a majority in the House of Commons, but govern through an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party.

May announced her resignation after failing to get her Brexit deal through parliament, faced with opposition from both Conservative MPs and the DUP.

Many politicians have raised concerns about the backstop, which aims to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and could see the North stay aligned to some EU rules.

The DUP, which campaigned in favour of Brexit, believes the backstop threatens the UK and could lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

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