Ireland’s deputy premier has warned British politicians to sign up to the current Brexit agreement or risk facing a chaotic no-deal that would see the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union.
Simon Coveney said people are “too quick” to write off Prime Minister Theresa May, saying she has shown “resilience, courage” and a “reality check” to Brexiteers in Westminster.
He rejected suggestions the Irish government is preparing for a hard border – adding the way to avoid it is to sign up to the current agreement on the table.
Speaking ahead of Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis, the Foreign Affairs Minister admitted it “will be difficult” to find an alternative deal that will prevent a hard border.
“If we are forced into that situation we will have to look at ways in which that can be avoided but that will not be easy,” he said.
“It is a far more sensible approach to support what is being negotiated over the last two years as a way that we know provides the guarantees that we have looked for and insisted on that there will be no physical border or infrastructure or checks or controls and that is an issue that goes beyond commerce and trade.
“We have made it very clear that our contingency plans include east/west trade preparations – we are not going to prepare for border infrastructure on these island.
“That is why we have been so firm that any deal that was signed off needed to deal with this issue comprehensively.
“People have a choice to make – it’s either this deal or a chaotic no-deal Brexit or potentially it triggers a series of events that unravels that whole project itself.”
Mr Coveney also said Sinn Fein’s refusal to take their seats at Westminster is “skewing” the debate as there is no Nationalist voice in the House of Commons.
Sinn Fein’s seven MPs refuse to take their seats as they do not recognise the UK Parliament’s right to legislate for any part of Ireland.
Mr Coveney said: “The debate that is taking place in Westminster has a direct impact on Ireland and for the first time there is no Nationalist voice from Northern Ireland.
“That is skewing the debate because there is only one perspective being expressed.
“It’s not a balanced reflection for Northern Ireland as a whole.
“I would certainly like to see Sinn Fein giving the perspective of the people they represent in Northern Ireland and I would like to see Sinn Fein being part of voting on what happens to the deal that’s being signed off.
“If this vote in Westminster is lost by two or three votes and Sinn Fein are standing outside speaking to the media but not using their seven votes, then people will rightly ask some serious questions of them.”
European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee will travel to Brussels with Mr Coveney on Monday before she travels with Taoiseach Leo Varakdar to the European Council next Sunday.