Simon Coveney: Backstop 'Essential' In Withdrawal Agreement

Ireland's Foreign Affairs minister has stressed the importance of the border backstop as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which he maintains is not up for renegotiation.

The backstop is a measure accepted by the EU to protect against a hard border and any type of physical checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic, as part of the terms of the UK's divorce.

Speaking in the Irish Parliament, Simon Coveney said it was an "essential part" of the deal.

"It acts as an insurance policy, to ensure that there is no hard border on this island following Brexit."

The Tánaiste also warned against a no-deal Brexit, which he believes would become a "damage limitation" exercise.

"It would be impossible in a no-deal scenario to maintain the current seamless arrangements between the EU and UK across a full range of sectors, which is currently facilitated by our common EU membership."

Ahead of the Brexit deadline which remains set for 29 March, The Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland warned that motorists wishing to drive across the border would need to purchase a 'green card' for travel if the UK leaves the EU without reaching an agreement on the terms of its exit.
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Mr Coveney added that the EU would be as helpful as possible in the next 70 days leading up to Brexit and would be "happy to evolve its position" if the UK chose to shift its red lines on leaving the customs union and the single market, but reiterated that Prime Minister Theresa May's rejected deal was not up for renegotiation.

Meanwhile, in a phone conversation with Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Sinn Fein's Deputy Leader expressed her concerns about the unfolding political chaos at Westminster.

Michelle O'Neill said: "I had a frank discussion with the British Secretary of State and I told her that her government is clearly still not listening to fears of the public who are aghast at the pantomime currently playing out in Parliament.

"With each passing day, our business community, our farmers, our community and voluntary sector are growing more concerned at where this shambles will ultimately end up. And it is they who will pay the price of a no-deal crash Brexit.

"Unfortunately that is where we are likely to end up if Karen Bradley's government pursues a solution by attempting to placate and appease the DUP and the hard Brexiteers.

"Those people are clearly not concerned about the impact of their reckless actions on our economy and our communities."

Michelle O'Neill urged the Dublin Government and the EU27 to "stand firm" on their position that "there can be no agreement without a backstop".


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