Tanaiste says technology will not solve Brexit border issue

Simon Coveney says technology won't solve the border question. Picture by Aine Fox/PA Wire
Seamus McKinney

IRISH foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has said the Brexit border issue will not be solved by "technology, cameras and drones".

The tánaiste also dismissed claims by British Brexit Secretary David Davis that his demand for progress a European summit in June was an artificial deadline.

Mr Coveney was in Derry yesterday to meet business leaders and address the city's chamber of commerce.

His visit coincided with claims in Dublin that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar did not share his views on the June deadline.

Opposition politicians claimed the government was sending out mixed messages after Mr Varadakar said he would rather have the “right deal” at an October summit over “any deal” in June.

The taoiseach told the Dáil that he and Mr Coveney were both agreed that “substantive progress” on resolving the border issue was required before June's European Council gathering in Brussels.

Mr Coveney said Britain's apparent determination to leave the EU customs union made it more difficult to see a frictionless border.

“In the meantime, what we are focused on is seeing a follow-through on the clear political commitment that has been made by the British government – which we support – that we put a backstop arrangement in place consistent with paragraph 49 of the political agreement in December to ensure that there will not be any border infrastructure of any kind or any related checks or controls.

“Of course, this is not going to be solved by technology and cameras and scanning systems and drones on the border.

"What's required here is a backstop which is a political agreement which is consistent maintaining full alignment with the rules of the customs union and single market in the areas that are necessary to allow for the all-island economy to function and north south cooperation to function and to protect the Good Friday Agreement."

Jennifer McKeever, president of Derry's chamber of commerce, said she told the tánaiste the border was not just a line on a map for businesses in the north west.

“It's a part of how we live and trade every day. An open and frictionless border is so absolutely crucial to civic and economic life here,” she said.

Mr Coveney also met representatives of loyalist bands as well as Derry's Cultúrlann culture centre and toured the Museum of Free Derry during yesterday's visit.

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