Tánaiste Simon Coveney warns over assuming border deal imminent

Simon Coveney said that even if the UK cabinet agrees exit plans in the coming days, the rest of the EU must also back them 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned against assuming a breakthrough on the Brexit border row is imminent.

The Republic’s foreign minister said that even if the UK cabinet agrees exit plans in the coming days, the rest of the EU must also back them.

Senior ministers were invited to review the text of the withdrawal agreement that has so far been secured in negotiations with Brussels, and are poised to meet as soon as a deal is ready to be signed off.

But Mr Coveney, below, told the Irish Canada Business Association conference in Dublin: “I would urge caution that an imminent breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot.

“Repeatedly people seem to make the same mistake over and over again, assuming that if the British cabinet agrees something, well, then that’s it then, everything is agreed.

“This is a negotiation and needs to be an agreement of course between the British government, but also with the European Union and the 27 countries that are represented by Michel Barnier and his negotiating team.

“So while of course we want progress to be made and we want it to be made as quickly as possible because time is moving on, I would urge caution that people don’t get carried away on the back of rumour in the coming days.”

Last night, Downing Street also played down suggestions that a Brexit deal is imminent, after European Council president Donald Tusk appeared to indicate a breakthrough could come within the next week.

A senior UK government source said that reports in the European media that a deal could come in the next few days should be
taken “with a very large pinch of salt”.

Austria’s Der Standard newspaper quoted European Commission sources at a summit in Finland as saying that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary Dominic Raab could meet in the next few days to seal an agreement and pave the way for a special summit of EU leaders in Brussels on November 25.

Asked about the prospects of a breakthrough in the coming week, Mr Tusk told Channel 4 News: “I hope so... but still we need maybe five, maybe six, maybe seven days.”

Brexiteer MPs, including environment secretary Michael Gove, have called on Theresa May to release full legal advice setting out how the arrangement could be ended to avoid it becoming a permanent settlement.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the full government legal advice on Brexit must be
published and insisted how the UK could exit from the customs union must be “pinned down” before MPs and peers vote on the deal.

Leaving without an agreement would mean some “hiccups in the first year” but the UK would have “all the rights and controls over our own destiny,” he added.

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