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Simon Coveney: Irish government will not take 'leap in the dark' over border

Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said his government will not take “a leap in the dark” over the border issue in Brexit negotiations. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE Republic's foreign affairs minister last night reiterated the demand that the British government set out how the Irish border will operate after Brexit.

Simon Coveney said Dublin would not “take a leap in the dark” and hope that a solution to the vexed issue emerges later in EU negotiations.

He was speaking to The Irish News just hours after the resignation of Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald averted a snap election in the south.

A potential vote of no confidence threatened to send voters to the polls at a time when the Irish government is preparing for a crucial EU summit.

At the December meeting between the EU27 leaders and the British government it will be decided whether Brexit negotiations can move to the next phase.

The UK has been told it must first spell out how it proposes the Irish border will function after it severs ties with Brussels.

The British government argues that the issue cannot be resolved until the shape of a post-Brexit trade deal becomes clear.

Mr Coveney said in recent months the fall-out from Brexit had “somewhat tested” Anglo-Irish relations but his government had “an obligation to ensure there is more clarity” about the border.

He rejected suggestions that the Dublin administration was “being unreasonable” or “grandstanding”.

“I've been accused by some of using this issue in a way that's inappropriate to try and put pressure on the British side in terms of the Brexit negotiations – that's simply not true,” he said.

“We have been absolutely consistent on the issue, in that we want to see the maintenance of what is effectively an invisible border on the island of Ireland.”

The foreign affairs minister said he had never been an advocate of a de facto border at the Irish Sea, but viable solutions that ruled out such a scenario had yet to be put forward by the British.

“The truth is that Northern Ireland is different from other parts of the United Kingdom because we agree to do things on an all-Ireland basis,” he said.

“In other words it's different to Wales and Scotland, and that's just a pragmatic difference.”

Mr Coveney added that it was regrettable that Brexit had been turned into a “orange and green issue”.

“Megaphone diplomacy isn't where we need to be but at the same I think the Irish government's position – which has not changed – is fair, consistent and firm position,” he said.

The UK's Europe minister Sir Alan Duncan yesterday acknowledged relations with Dublin were going through a "bumpy period", but said he wanted a border which would preserve "as much of the status quo" as possible.

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