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Border checks would be temporary, Irish deputy premier says

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Simon Coveney also claimed that any alternatives put forward by the UK Government to the backstop must be scrutinised.

Simon Coveney

Deputy Irish premier Simon Coveney has said any checks on the Irish border as a a result of Brexit will be temporary.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not tabled any detailed alternatives to the backstop but Mr Coveney said “he is convinced the Prime Minister wants to get a deal”.

Mr Coveney said Ireland is willing to place some checks on the border to protect its membership of the European Union single market but it would be a temporary arrangement.

“We don’t regard those checks that may be needed in the event of no-deal as a permanent arrangement – not by a long shot,” said Mr Coveney.

He said any alternatives put forward by the UK Government to the backstop must be scrutinised.

“We are not going to mislead people and essentially kick this can down the road or pretend solutions down the road are going to work. Any alternatives to the backstop need to be tested, scrutinised and need to do the job that the backstop we put forward already does,” he added.

Mr Coveney refused to speculate on the potential number and scale of border checks, and said discussions are ongoing on with the European Commission.

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He added: “There are so many things I could comment on in relation to British politics but I don’t think it is helpful to comment on it or Westminster. Our focus need to be laser-like on the solutions we find for Ireland in this process.

“Brexit was not an Irish decision, it was a British one and my focus has to be on how we solve a very complex series of challenges and get a deal in the process.”

Mr Coveney said the UK leaving the EU will not be a clean break and that Brexit is going to take a lot longer than anticipated.

“The issue doesn’t go away just because Britain leaves the EU without a deal,” he said.

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TD Martin Heydon (left) and Simon Coveney
TD Martin Heydon (left) and Simon Coveney during the Fine Gael parliamentary meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

“The idea that leaving without a deal is a clean break from the European Union for the UK is almost a contradiction in terms. It certainly won’t be a clean break. There will be a lot of unresolved questions.

“The problem is we will have to resolve those problems without a transition period that the Withdrawal Agreement caters for.

“”It is going to take a lot longer and it is going to be in an atmosphere that will have a lot more acrimony and frustration which makes it difficult to get deals done.

“That is why it is important to get a Withdrawal Agreement ratified in Westminster after an agreement between the EU and UK is so important, and we will do everything we can to help that process.”

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