Brexit negotiations need to be stepped up: Simon Coveney

The Republic's foreign minister Simon Coveney (right) with press advisor Chris Donoghue, in Dublin yesterday
The Republic's foreign minister Simon Coveney (right) with press advisor Chris Donoghue, in Dublin yesterday

The Republic of Ireland’s foreign affairs minister said negotiations on the Brexit deal needed to be ramped up after Theresa May told European leaders Chequers was the only route to a deal.

Simon Coveney said that while Mrs May’s government did not agree with the European Union’s text for the withdrawal treaty, it had failed to bring its own alternative.

Describing the consequences of a no-deal Brexit as “damaging and severe”, Mr Coveney said there was an onus on the negotiation teams to find a solution.

The issue about how to avoid a hard border and an agreement on the Irish backstop was still to be resolved.

The tanaiste said that while a lot had been achieved to date, negotiations needed to be stepped up.

“It will take an intensification of negotiations in Brussels between the two negotiation teams on the details of how the backstop works,” he said.

“That intensification has not happened to the extent that it needs to get this done.

“We don’t have proposed legal text from UK despite the fact we have a UK spokesperson saying it doesn’t agree with the approach of the EU.”

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reworking the offer it put forward earlier this year in a bid to address concerns raised by the prime minister.

Mr Coveney added: “What they are talking about is a de-dramatised minimum amount of practical checks that are needed so that the EU can ensure it protects the integrity of the single market and customs union.

“I think Theresa May is very genuine in her commitment to a backstop and is determined in finding a way forward in that.”

Mr Coveney added that Brexit would be a “lose, lose, lose” for Britain, adding that its influence on the world would be diminished as a result of leaving the EU.

He said: “The consequences of a no-deal Brexit are so damaging and so severe, in particular for Britain, but also having a negative impact on Ireland. There is an onus on all involved in these negotiations to find a way through.”

Mr Coveney made the comments as he unveiled a campaign to help Irish businesses prepare for Brexit.