Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Ciara O'Loughlin

Border counties can ‘sleep easy’ as Brexit NI agreement passed but tomorrow is ‘pivotal’ for remaining issues, says Coveney

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said it is a 'historic' day as an NI protocol was agreed. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said today was an “historic” day as the Northern Ireland protocol was agreed, but warned tomorrow is “pivotal” as two issues for a Brexit deal are still to be resolved.

The two remaining issues - a level playing field and fishing - make up just 2pc of the overall Brexit deal that is being negotiated.

Speaking on RTÉ One’s Prime Time, Mr Coveney said: “There was a historic agreement today and we shouldn't let it pass. It is almost three years to the day when I was standing next to Leo Varadkar talking about a backstop providing cast-iron guarantees that we would not face the prospect of physical border reemerging on the island of Ireland.

“Today, three years later, we have an agreement between the EU and the UK on how we implement what will replace the backstop but does a very similar job in the protocol in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

"There is no longer any concern around British domestic legislation undermining that protocol.

"We now have agreed on how it's going to work and it's not going to be easy but it is hugely important for the future of the island of Ireland for our place in the EU single market, for the peace process, for people, in particular, living in border counties.

"They can now rest easy that the border question is settled, and it has taken us three years to get there.”

However, he added that getting the Northern Ireland protocol settled is just “one thing” and that tomorrow is “really significant”.

He said: “Tomorrow is another big day and getting the Northern Irish protocol settled is one thing but we also want to get a trade deal and a future relationship agreement in place to avoid really significant destruction from January 1 next year.”

When asked when he thought a deal will be struck, he said he couldn’t give “a definitive date” but that he believes tomorrow is “pivotal”- not clarifying whether he believes it will be a no-deal if agreements are not reached tomorrow.

“I don’t think you can put a definitive date on it, but I think tomorrow is pivotal,” he said.

"The British prime minister has accepted that the negotiation teams have taken this as far as they can and the European Commissioner president has said the same.

"So what is happening now is the two negotiating teams are essentially itemizing the issues that have not been resolved and the two most senior political leaders involved in this negotiation are effectively meeting tomorrow night with their teams to see if they can overcome those obstacles.

“I have to say as the week has gone on people have become more pessimistic.”

However, he added: “My job is to be optimistic and having spoken to the British government this evening I do believe they do want to try to find a way of getting a deal.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.