Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Boris Johnson "Still Hasn't Come Up With A Credible Backstop Alternative"
30 August 2019, 11:54
Boris Johnson needs to come up with a credible alternative to the Irish Backstop, Ireland's deputy prime minister has said.
Simon Coveney said that there is no country that wants a Brexit deal more than the Republic of Ireland, but any deal would need to be based on the withdrawal agreement.
Speaking during a visit to Helsinki today, he made clear the bloc would only accept changes to the agreement if the UK presented a workable alternative to the Irish backstop - something he said is yet to materialise.
Mr Coveney said it would not "fly" for the UK to ask the EU to accept the removal of the backstop on the promise of an alternative that had not yet emerged.
The Tánaiste's statements come as negotiations for a new Brexit deal ramp up, with Downing Street scheduling two meetings a week with the EU until the Halloween deadline.
But Mr Coveney claimed that the EU has no problem creating time for further Brexit and insisted the EU would be willing negotiate five days a week if need-be.
He said: "I'm sure if he wanted five days of negotiations a week, the EU would be okay with that.
"Michel Barnier is there as the chief negotiator for that purpose, he has a team that's ready to go.
"We all want to get a deal but at the moment nothing credible has come from the British Government in the context of an alternative to the backstop.
"If that changes, great. We'll look at it in Dublin but more importantly it can be the basis of a discussion in Brussels, but it's got to be credible.
"It can't simply be this notion that 'look we must have the backstop removed and we'll solve this problem in the future negotiation, without any credible way of doing that'. That's not going to fly and I think it's important that we are all honest about that.
"We have always said if there are alternatives to the backstop that do the same job, then let's hear them and if we can work out a deal on that basis, so be it.
"But what we will not do in Ireland, and I believe there is strong solidarity across the EU on this, we will not allow a really important element of the Withdrawal Agreement to be removed - i.e. the backstop, which solves a difficult problem, albeit on a temporary basis - and for that to be replaced with something that doesn't stand up to scrutiny and is simply a promise that we'll do our best to solve the problem, but not explain how.
"That is not an approach that either Ireland or the EU will support."
What is the Irish backstop?
The Irish border backstop is the position of last resort to protect the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The backstop agreement is that the UK, or part of the UK, would remain part of the Customs Union.
However, parliament has already rejected the current deal, negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU, three times.
Brexiteers fear that the backstop would prevent the U.K. striking trade deals with other nations after Brexit by effectively keeping the UK in the single market.
Meanwhile the EU say the backstop is essential for maintaining the free movement of goods, services and people and to the peace agreement in Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist Party has vowed to oppose any new checks on goods passing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.