Ireland will not be pressurised into accepting Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, the country’s deputy premier has said.
Simon Coveney suggested briefings emerging from Downing Street were an effort to put pressure on the Dublin government to make concessions.
A No 10 source has been quoted as blaming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for the ongoing impasse, accusing him of rowing back on private commitments to compromise.
Mr Coveney, speaking after his government announced a “Brexit budget” to absorb the impact of a no-deal exit, said a disorderly Brexit would be the UK’s choice, not Europe’s.
“There is a lot of misinformation going around today, so let me say this loud and clear to everybody – the Irish government and the EU is working flat out to achieve a deal that sees an orderly Brexit at the end of this month,” he said.
“However, that deal cannot come at any cost. The British Government has responsibilities on the island of Ireland.”
He added: “The Taoiseach wants to find a compromise here that works but he is not willing to be boxed into a corner and to accept proposals that are not consistent with the current Withdrawal Agreement or the outcomes of the backstop.
“He’s been very clear about that and I expect an element of that briefing was to try to put pressure on Ireland and put pressure on the Taoiseach and for us, this isn’t about pressure or personalities, it’s about solving a problem.”
Mr Coveney said Ireland wanted a fair deal and close future relationship with the UK.
“A no-deal Brexit will not be Ireland’s choice, it will never be the EU’s choice,” he said.
“If it happens, it will be a decision made by the British Government.”
Referring to Mr Johnson’s plans to replace the contentious border backstop, Mr Coveney said: “We thought that offer was a big step forward in a number of areas, but clearly, particularly in the customs area and in the consent and consultation area in the context of Northern Ireland, there was significantly more work needed.
“I think that’s been borne out by the task force in terms of the work they have done in that paper as well.
“I suspect there are different views in the British system, some hardline, some wanting a deal and all I can say is that there is an ongoing conversation in Brussels and they want to contribute to that in a constructive way to try and find an outcome here that protects everybody.
“But we cannot respond to an approach that says, ‘Give us what we want or we leave with a no deal and everybody gets damaged’.
“This has to be on the basis of negotiation where the extent of the problems that are caused by Brexit are recognised, particularly on this island.”
Mr Coveney continued: “If the British Government wants to remove the backstop or the Withdrawal Agreement, they have got to bring forward proposals that do the same job in the context of the border issues that are so difficult and complex.
“It’s not just about trade, it’s about so much more than that and anybody who understands Ireland and the politics of this island understands that.”