If Britain’s latest proposals for an agreement on leaving the European Union are its final offer, then a no-deal Brexit lies ahead, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Thursday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced proposals which focus on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. A number of European Union officials have expressed doubt the plan can yield an agreement before an Oct. 31 deadline.
“My judgment is that Boris Johnson does want a deal and that the paper that was published yesterday was an effort to move us in the direction of a deal. But… if that is the final proposal, there will be no deal,” Coveney told parliament.
“There are a number of fundamental problems with that proposal but I think it is also true to say there is a progression towards the space we need to be in other elements of the proposal,” he added.
Coveney said the EU considered the British documents a “serious proposal” with some positives, but also two significant problems.
The first is that there is no indication of how border infrastructure to deal with customs issues can be avoided.
Secondly, it is not clear whether the proposals would give Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party an effective veto.
“We cannot support any proposal that suggests that one party or indeed a minority in Northern Ireland could make the decisions for the majority,” he said.
Instead, Ireland envisages a “consultative role” for the Northern Ireland regional assembly.
The proposals “are not the basis of what will be an agreement if it happens, but need to be the basis for discussion,” Coveney said.
EU officials will not yet go into the “tunnel” of secretive negotiations that are typically required to secure a deal, Coveney said. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Angus MacSwan)