Coveney resolute as he warns backstop opponents ‘there is no magic solution’
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Coveney resolute as he warns backstop opponents ‘there is no magic solution’

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has said ‘there is no magic solution’ to finding an alternative to the proposed Brexit backstop.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, the Foreign Affairs minister said opponents to the backstop had offered no ‘pragmatic, sensible and legally sound alternative’ to avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

To withdraw the backstop and offer ‘a commitment’ to avoiding a hard border just weeks before Brexit was unreasonable to all people on the island of Ireland, said Mr Coveney.

UK must 'keep its word'

“There is no magic solution here for this problem – if there was it would have emerged by now,” he told Marr.

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“That is why Ireland will insist on the United Kingdom keeping its word both to Ireland and to the EU and the people of Northern Ireland in terms of protecting a fragile but hugely valuable peace process.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement suffered a huge defeat in the House of Commons two weeks ago, with MPs voting 432 to 202 to reject the deal.

With Mrs May set to bring it before MPs again next month, Marr asked Mr Coveney what would happen if the Commons voted to withdraw the backstop.

Mr Coveney said Britain would be reneging on its commitment to avoiding a hard border and replacing it with ‘an aspirational hope and a commitment that somehow we’ll solve this but… don’t know how’.

EU backing Ireland

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“Is it reasonable to ask people north and south on the island of Ireland to actually move ahead on that basis?” said the Tánaiste.

“I don’t think it is and I don’t believe the EU will support that approach at all.”

Following almost two years of negotiations on a British policy that is ‘causing huge problems on our island north and south’, Mr Coveney indicated it was unfair to change the agreement just weeks before Brexit on March 29.

“The Irish position is we have already agreed to a series of compromises here and that has resulted in what is proposed in the withdrawal agreement,” said Mr Coveney.

“Ireland has the same position as the EU now I think, when we say that the backstop as part of a withdrawal agreement is part of a balanced package that isn’t going to change.”