Brexit deadlock not game of chicken, says Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

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The Brexit deadlock is not a “game of chicken” between the UK and the EU, the Irish deputy prime minister has said.

Simon Coveney said on Sunday that the UK and Irish governments needed to work together to reach a breakthrough.

But he insisted that the backstop – the insurance policy aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border – had to remain a part of the withdrawal agreement.

Theresa May is unlikely to get MPs to approve her Brexit deal unless changes to the backstop are made.

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The Irish border has been one of the biggest sticking points during Brexit negotiations

The prime minister is facing opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Tory Brexiteers, who fear the backstop will not just be a temporary measure if no future trade deal is agreed.

But the Irish government and rest of the EU’s member states have insisted the deal is not up for renegotiation.

‘Trying to work together’

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Coveney said that “no magic solution” had emerged as a “sensible and legally sound” alternative to solve the disputed Irish border issue.

“If there was it would’ve emerged by now,” he added.

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Media captionReality Check unpacks the basics of the backstop.

“That is why Ireland will insist on the UK keeping its word, both to Ireland and to the EU and to people in Northern Ireland, in terms of protecting a fragile but hugely valuable peace process.”

He said that “people keep talking about games of chicken” but the Irish government and the EU were “trying to work together” with the UK.

“Britain and Ireland are two islands next to each other – we have to work out these things together and stop talking about games of chicken.

“That is the way in which I hope these negotiations will go, rather than the British parliament deciding on something that may command a majority in Westminster but has no chance of getting agreement or ratification in the EU.

“The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement that doesn’t have a backstop in it – it’s as simple as that.”

Mr Coveney also said that the UK government and the media needed to listen to voices of political parties and business groups in Northern Ireland that have supported the backstop in the draft withdrawal deal.

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