Simon Coveney says Stormont consent on Brexit deal cannot be unionist or nationalist veto

Simon Coveney said neither nationalism or unionism could have a controlling vote or veto on single market alignment. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

THE tánaiste has stressed that a simple majority of MLAs is the best way of deciding whether Northern Ireland continues to apply EU rules after Brexit.

Speaking in Belfast yesterday, Simon Coveney said neither nationalism or unionism could have a "controlling vote, or veto, or block".

His remarks came as the DUP submitted amendments to the draft withdrawal agreement, which the party says would bring it into line with the Good Friday Agreement.

"Where the vote of each and every individual MLA is of equal weight and importance, and where the views of their constituents is of equal weight and importance," Mr Coveney said of the consent mechanism in the Brexit deal.

"Where no one is ignored; where no one is getting everything they want; where no one community or party can determine the outcome – but everyone gets a say, an equal say."

According to Sinn Féin, Michel Barnier has also rejected the notion of a veto.

"There will be no veto - we will stay tough on that," the EU chief negotiator is reported to have told Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy during a discussions with the Left political grouping in the European Parliament on Tuesday evening.

But according to the DUP, a simple majority vote that would keep the north aligned to single market rules for four years does not reflect the 1998 peace accord.

On Monday DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the failure to include a safeguard in the latest Brexit deal would have "serious implications" for his party's support for the restoration of devolution, while Mary Lou McDonald said Sinn Féin would block the formation of a new executive if the withdrawal agreement gave any party a veto.

As disagreement over the issue threatens to completely scupper the prospects of restoring devolution, both the SDLP and Alliance rejected a role for the Northern Ireland Assembly in determining a future trading relationship with the EU.

Mr Carthy said the withdrawal agreement could not be "further diluted".

"There can be no veto, no opportunity for any one party to hold every business, every farm, every worker, every community across the island of Ireland to ransom," he said.

"To suggest that such a veto would represent consent is absurd and is a ludicrous misreading of the Good Friday Agreement."

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