There is “no desire” in Ireland to delay progress on the Brexit negotiations, according to the country’s deputy prime minister.
Simon Coveney said his government did not want to veto the talks, after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned he was prepared to stand firm on the Irish border issue.
Mr Coveney, who was appointed the new tanaiste in the Dail on Thursday, told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show Ireland wants a solution on the border that “involves all of the United Kingdom acting as one”.
Asked whether the Irish government were prepared to use a “veto” over the Brexit talks, he said: “We certainly don’t want to be vetoing anything – I mean the Irish government, just like the British government, wants to be able to move the Brexit process on to phase two and we want to be able to provide the kind of certainty that many businesses are calling for in Britain and Ireland and indeed in other parts of the European Union.
“So there is no desire I can tell you in Ireland to delay this process, but at the same time we have a responsibility as a government to represent the interests on the island of Ireland – north and south – and let’s not forget that next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement which is the basis for the peace process and relations between Britain and Ireland on the island of Ireland.
“And we believe that as an island, Ireland is uniquely vulnerable and exposed to a potential bad outcome from Brexit and that is why we are looking for more progress than we have in terms of understanding how the border issues in particular on the island of Ireland, and the north and south cooperation that has created a normality on the island of Ireland which is a hugely positive thing.”
The leaders of the remaining 27 EU states, including Irish premier Mr Varadkar, have a veto on triggering the second phase of talks, meaning Prime Minister Theresa May must be sure of support from Dublin for progress to be made.
European Council President Donald Tusk has said the Irish would be consulted on whether the UK’s offer was sufficient.
Mr Coveney said Ireland was not looking for the “full detail” on the border solution in phase one of the talks, and told the programme: “What we are looking for though is the parameters within which we can be more confident that a solution can be found within phase two – and that is not an unreasonable ask.
“We would like to see a solution here that solves the border issues, that involves all of the United Kingdom acting as one.”
Mrs May is due to travel to Brussels on Monday for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in the hope of securing a declaration that “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues like the financial settlement and the Irish border.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said she believed that there was a “real will” on both sides to resolve the border issue.
“I don’t think there is actually any difference between what the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom want. That is a good place to be in,” she told The Andrew Marr show.
“What we now need to do is set about working out how we make sure we broadly keep the status quo in terms of what people and businesses experience across the border every day post Brexit. I think there is a real will there to make sure that we work through that.”