Brexit

Change Brexit red lines and EU could be flexible, says Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney urged the British government to change its Brexit red lines. Picture by Mark Marlow
Cate McCurry, Press Association

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said that the European Union would be "willing to accommodate" the UK if it changed its red lines on Brexit.

Mr Coveney said his meeting with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier today pointed to the willingness of the EU to "be flexible".

Speaking at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, the tánaiste  said: "If the UK wants to change its red lines, or change its approach, I think they would get a generous response from the EU in terms of doing what they can, within reason, to accommodate that.

"He (Mr Barnier) confirmed that the EU remains firmly supportive of the Withdrawal Agreement in full, which includes the guarantees and fall-back mechanisms to ensure there will be no physical border between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

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"We both want to wait and see what the British Prime Minister (Theresa May) says to Westminster today when she makes her statement following the events of the last 10 days or so."

He said the EU has been "repeatedly clear" that the Withdrawal Agreement is not up to renegotiation.

Mr Coveney added: "What the EU is not willing to do is to start renegotiating a legal withdrawal agreement that took nearly two years to put together and was a series of lots of compromises, taking into account British red lines and EU concerns.

"I hope we will see a willingness to look again at the future relationship that Britain is seeking with the EU as a mechanism to find a way forward.

"I think that's what Michel Barnier has been hinting and talking about, but this is matter for Westminster and for the British prime minister."

He also dismissed reports that Theresa May could consider amending the Good Friday Agreement in order to break the deadlock over the border.

"I got confirmation from the British government that is not something they are looking to pursue and I think they are right not to pursue it," he continued.

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"The Good Friday Agreement is a hugely important foundation for the peace process and I don't think we should be talking about changing it in an attempt to try and solve a political problem."

Mr Barnier also appeared to rule out the prospect of the UK striking a bilateral deal with the Republic.

He was asked about reports suggesting Mrs May was considering the move as a way to resolve the Irish border backstop impasse, potentially even by changing the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

When asked about the suggestion by RTÉ in Brussels on Monday morning, Mr Barnier replied: "As you know, it's in evidence, we are working 27 as a team, a single team and we negotiate as one."

Pressed on whether there was any scope for a bilateral deal between the UK and the Republic, he responded: "We are one team."

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