'Frustration' at British switch in Brexit stance - Coveney

Simon Coveney: British have moved away from legal commitments.
By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Negotiations with Britain in relation to securing a Brexit deal are “in a difficult place” Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking during an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Coveney said he hoped a deal can still be done before the end of the year, but expressed “frustration” at a clear change in position from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team.

Mr Coveney was commenting as Irish and EU officials reached a draft agreement to limit the impact of Brexit on the movement of Irish food products and live animals into the rest of the EU via the UK land bridge.

But he warned that the British have deliberately and openly “moved away” from legal commitments made by them less than six months ago.

“In terms of the future relationship and a trade deal, the honest answer is that we are in a difficult place,” he said.

“My view is that we will find a way of getting that done, that’s a personal view, but there have been five rounds of negotiations and very, very little progress has been made,” he added.

“It has been a frustrating process, both sides have agreed to intensify negotiations. Michel Barnier has been clear there has not been much progress. There was an expectation that we would see more from the British side but that didn’t happen.

“The approach of both sides is completely different,” he said.

“The EU is seeking agreement on a package of things all agreed at the same time. The British are seeking to do sectoral deals in areas where they have an interest,” he added.

“It is difficult to get an agreement when both sides are looking for completely different outcomes. The biggest problem is that the UK is not adhering to the approach agreed only six months ago in the political declaration,” Mr Coveney added.

“Until the British approach this process in a way that is consistent to what was agreed, it is hard to see progress being made,” the former Tánaiste said.

Mr Coveney is to write an opinion piece in the London edition of the Sunday Times tomorrow to reinforce the Irish position as part of the EU bloc has not changed despite the formation of the new government.