Change in PM will not move Ireland’s position on Brexit, says Coveney

A change of British prime minister will not result in a change in the Irish Government’s stance on Brexit, the Irish foreign affairs minister said.

Simon Coveney said the Government’s position had not changed and will not change because of Theresa May leaving her role.

His comments came as some of the candidates in the Conservative party leadership campaign to replace Mrs May raised the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

“The Government’s position has not changed and it does not change because there is a change of British prime minister,” Mr Coveney told the Irish parliament on Tuesday.

“This has never been about personalities. It has always been about evidence, facts and trying to deal with the complexity of the decision of a country and economy the size of the UK to leave the European Union, of which it has been a part for 47 years.

“The approximately 57 trade deals it has in place, the 70 billion euro trade relationship it has with Ireland, and the fact that we share responsibility for a peace process on this island, all make the UK’s exit from the European Union very complicated.

“That is why the withdrawal agreement, which deals with that complexity in terms of the divorce arrangements for leaving, if one wishes to call it that, took two and a half years to negotiate.

“That is the EU’s and Ireland’s position and it is not going to change with a new person taking charge, regardless of what is being said and claimed.

“The facts do not change.”

He added that Ireland needed to be “respectful” in how it relays that to the UK, but the Government also needed to be “firm and consistent”.

Mr Coveney was speaking in response to Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers, who said there appeared to be no moderate candidate coming forward in the UK.

“It is concerning to hear almost all the candidates openly talking about a no-deal Brexit being a viable option,” she said.

Mr Coveney added that everyone was waiting to see who would replace Mrs May and what approach he would take on trying to find a way of getting a Brexit deal agreed and ratified.

In the meantime, he said, Ireland would continue to focus on its no-deal preparations.