Ireland's Foreign Minister 'very happy' with border guarantees

Commitments to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit are being accurately reflected in a legal document due to be published this week, the Republic's Foreign Minister has said.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney held talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels and said he was very happy with the text.

"I think people will judge for themselves. I think they will see it's an accurate reflection of what was politically agreed in December," Mr Coveney said.

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When phase one of the Brexit negotiations finished before Christmas the Irish government said it had secured cast iron guarantees there would be no return to a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland when the UK leaves Europe.

Despite those assurances, Theresa May's Government has insisted the UK will not be joining a customs union and that it wants to be free to sign trade deals with other parts of the world.

The Prime Minister is to set out the latest developments in her own plans for Brexit on Friday, after a special meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday.

But Mr Coveney said the Irish government and Mr Barnier are of "one mind" on the text of the legal document due to be published on Wednesday.

"It will be faithful and true to the political agreement that was made in December and translating that effectively into a legal text that can then be a draft withdrawal agreement from the EU's perspective," the Tanaiste said.

Mr Coveney said additions can be made to the legal text over time.

"The Irish government is very happy with the content that you will see published on Wednesday," he said.

Mr Coveney said there will be quite a lot detail on Ireland in the document, including on the possible default position in the event that no deal in reached on issues around trade, travel and customs between the EU and UK before 2019.

"Our preference will be to try and solve a lot of the Irish border issues and Irish issues through an option A, which hopefully we hear an awful lot more about from the British Prime Minister on Friday," he said.

Mr Coveney added: "We are not looking to try and put pressure on anybody. We are simply looking to translate into a clear, legal language a text that has already been agreed politically before Christmas. That has to happen at some point in time."