'Dose of reality needed' over Brexit deal hopes

Tanaiste Simon Coveney

THE Republic has played down the prospect of a Brexit breakthrough, pointing to a "wide gap" between Boris Johnson's position and that of the European Union.

Tanáiste Simon Coveney said there were still "serious problems" over the UK's efforts to remove the backstop.

Mr Johnson wants to scrap the backstop because of concerns it could leave the UK indefinitely tied closely to Brussels' rules.

The tanáiste was speaking ahead of talks between Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and following signs of increased optimism about the prospects of a deal before the UK's scheduled October 31 exit date.

Mr Coveney said "everyone needs a dose of reality" after reports that progress had been made.

He added that the EU was still waiting for "serious proposals" from the UK for an alternative to the border backstop.

Mr Coveney said there were problems because of the change in approach by the British prime minister.

Asking to remove "a very significant section within the Withdrawal Agreement" without any serious proposals as to how to solve those problems, he said, "is not going to be the basis for an agreement".

A no deal, he added, was "a loss for everyone, particularly Ireland and Britain".

"Ireland is in no doubt as to what a no deal means for us. It is very damaging and very difficult and poses huge questions for politics and potentially for the management of civic unrest in the context of Northern Ireland and the border question," Mr Coveney said.

He added that Ireland and the EU wanted to get a deal that the UK could support and were still waiting for proposals from the British government.

"We need a dose of reality, and there is still a wide gap," he said.

"That's why I think there is an onus on the British Government to come forward with alternative arrangements - if they have them - which can resolve the Irish border question."

Mr Coveney said Ireland was being asked to replace a "guarantee around that border question" with a promise that "somehow we'll do our best".

"We want to find a solution, we want to get a deal, and we want to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly and sensible manner, but we cannot allow Ireland to be the collateral damage of that," he said.

"I think for Britain to ask us to do that is a very unreasonable request, and it won't be the basis of a deal."

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