Coveney praises ‘steely’ Theresa May for securing ‘good deal for Britain’

Simon Coveney.
Simon Coveney.
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The Republic of Ireland’s deputy premier has said people are wrong to underestimate Theresa May when it comes to her ability to get the draft Brexit agreement through the House of Commons.

Simon Coveney said Mrs May was offering people a stark choice between a “managed, sensible Brexit”, one which protected both EU and British interests, and a “chaotic” scenario of a no deal.

Mr Coveney told RTE News: “People have underestimated Theresa May over and over again. I think they’re wrong to. I think she is a very steely, determined person.

“I think she has got a good deal for Britain, for the United Kingdom as a whole I should say, and she has followed through also on her commitments to Ireland and the EU.”

The Tanaiste made his comments following a meeting with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee.

They were in Brussels on Monday to discuss the draft agreement ahead of the special summit of European leaders on Sunday.

The indications are that Mrs May will fail to get the draft deal through the House of Commons next month.

Mr Barnier described the deal as “fair and balanced”, saying: “It takes into account the UK positions. In particular, we have found a compromise to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Both parties want to avoid using the backstop, Mr Barnier said.

Mrs May is expected to travel to Brussels this week to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In a tweet, Mr Coveney said there had been “strong consensus” across the 27 EU member states that the withdrawal agreement represented a “balance and fair compromise” between UK and EU interests.

“Negotiators now trying to finalise a positive political declaration on future relationship,” he wrote.

Earlier on Monday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the sooner the deal was done, the sooner negotiators could move forward and start discussing the future arrangement.

Speaking in Dublin Mr Varadkar said: “The intention would be extending the transition period, and activating the backstop would never be necessary and won’t be necessary if we can successfully negotiate a future relationship, so the sooner we can have this deal sealed, and the sooner we can get on to talking about that future relationship the better I think.”

While in Brussels, Mr Coveney attended a meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers to discuss Iran, Yemen, Central Asia and Ukraine, as well as security and defence.

He said ministers had an exchange of views on Iran and had reaffirmed support for the Iran nuclear deal.

The EU’s relations with Central Asia were discussed ahead of an EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting which is scheduled to take place on November 23.

Mr Coveney said: “This is a region of growing importance and we discussed how the EU can take forward our partnership with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.”

The ministers also had an exchange on Bosnia and Herzegovina following recent elections there.

Mr Coveney said Ireland was “strongly supportive” of the perspective of EU membership being an agent for the promotion of reform and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider Balkan region.

He added that the “appalling situation” in Yemen was also discussed and he called on all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.