Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister has said the EU cannot compromise on the issue of the backstop to placate Conservative Brexiteers.
Simon Coveney said the Irish Government wanted to help Theresa May get her Brexit deal through the UK parliament, but insisted the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation.
“This isn’t just about Westminster,” Mr Coveney told Sky News’s Ridge On Sunday.
“This is a deal that has to get through a European parliament as well.”
He added: “You can’t ask Ireland to compromise on something as fundamental as a peace process and relationships linked to the Good Friday Agreement in order to get a deal through which is about placating a group within the Conservative Party who are insisting on moving the Prime Minister away from her own position.”
The Tanaiste said the backstop was a British government construct as much as it was an EU and Irish one.
He said: “This is about shared responsibility for Britain and Ireland as co-guarantors of a peace agreement in Northern Ireland to ensure that we don’t go backwards, that we don’t as an unintended consequence of Brexit see the re-emergence of a physical infrastructure between two jurisdictions, a border infrastructure that in the past has had awful memories.”
He added: “The idea that we would put a time limit to that backstop but not be able to answer the question ‘What happens after that time limit runs out and what replaces the backstop?’ – then it wouldn’t be a backstop at all.”
The Tanaiste told Sophy Ridge that wording of the Withdrawal Agreement “was not going to change”.
“The way to do this is to change the wording of the future relationship declaration that can help to provide more clarity and reassurance to Westminster,” he said.