Irish minister: There are no alternatives to the Irish backstop

Simon Coveney addresses a meeting of the Institute of International and European Affairs. Photograph

Simon Coveney addresses a meeting of the Institute of International and European Affairs. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has said there are no 'alternative arrangements' to replace the backstop in any Brexit deal.

Speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), the deputy Irish premier added that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened.

His comments came after Westminster voted in favour of changing the backstop plan.

'The EU is committed to exploring and trying to agree alternative arrangements with the UK to replace the backstop in the future,' Coveney said.

'However, there are currently no alternative arrangements which anyone has put forward which achieve what both sides are determined to achieve - to avoid a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls, and to protect the all-island economy, North-South co-operation and the Good Friday Agreement.

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'Believe me, this has been explored endlessly in the negotiations over the last two years.

'We need a backstop or insurance mechanism based on legal certainty, and not just wishful thinking.'

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He said Ireland and the EU would consider extending Article 50 if the UK requested it.

He also urged politicians in Westminster to understand the 'overwhelming wish' of people in Northern Ireland to avoid a return of borders and division.

Coveney added: 'It makes it all the more critical that the UK listens to other political parties, representing a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and to cross-community groups like the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and the Ulster Farmers Union over the coming weeks.

'What they are saying is that the backstop is infinitely preferable to a no-deal Brexit.

'The wider uncertainty does dictate however that the Government must and will continue to intensify our preparations for a disorderly Brexit.

'And we have moved now from planning to implementation.'

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