herald

Thursday 14 November 2019

Brussels hopes three-point plan will break Brexit impasse

Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney

A three-point plan is being hatched in Brussels to help UK Prime Minister Theresa May pull back from the cliff edge on Brexit.

While negotiations between the UK and EU remain "difficult", a package of measures is being put together in a bid to assure British politicians they won't be trapped in the Irish backstop indefinitely.

The Herald understands it includes:

• A commitment from both sides on a timeline for exploring alternative arrangements.

• Scope for changes to the political declaration.

• A "letter of comfort" which reaffirms the intention for the backstop to be temporary.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, yesterday told commissioners that no solution to the impasse has been identified at this point.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the most sensitive and most difficult element of the talks would be trying to help the UK's attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, so he can offer fresh legal advice to the House of Commons.

Trapped

Mr Cox previously warned the UK could be "trapped" in the backstop which ties the country to EU customs regulations in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"I think some people are overly optimistic at this stage about those negotiations and their outcome," Mr Coveney said.

Speaking on Independent.ie's Floating Voter podcast, he said the backstop would not be changed ahead of the key vote in the Commons next Tuesday.

"There will be an effort to try [and] introduce some form of declaration that creates a persuasive legal argument that reassures people that the backstop would be temporary," he said.

Mr Coveney also revealed more details about the Irish Government's strategy in the event that the nightmare scenario of a no-deal Brexit becomes inevitable.

"If it all fails politically, collapses and Britain crashes out in 23 days' time then I think there is a recognition that the British and Irish governments and EU Commission will have to work together to try to put some complex arrangement in place to prevent physical barriers on the Border," he said.

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