Lidington and Coveney meeting for UK-Irish talks on Brexit
British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney are due to hold talks in Dublin as the Brexit deadline looms.
Mr Coveney confirmed the meeting but said it was “not in any way a bilateral negotiation” on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Mr Coveney said the meeting had been arranged at Mr Lidington’s request.
“The real negotiation will happen in Brussels and that’s very clear,” Mr Coveney said.
He made the comments at an event at University College Dublin to launch the Irish Government’s new foreign aid policy.
Mr Coveney said there was little he could say about Brexit that Mr Lidington had not already heard, but the EU may provide an addition to the Withdrawal Agreement to give some assurance to the UK Government.
“The British Prime Minister will try to get ratification from her Parliament for any final deal,” he said.
“I think the EU parliament wants to work with the UK to try to give the reassurance and clarification to get that done, particularly around the protocol on Ireland and the Irish backstop,” he said.
“The EU has made it very clear though that they’re not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement in terms of text.
“So what they’ll be providing will be an addition to that, but in a way that doesn’t undermine the meaning of that text which I think is very important from an Irish perspective.”
Asked whether it would be a legally binding addition, he replied: “Let’s wait and see what the negotiating teams work on.”
Although Brexit will dominate the talks between Mr Coveney and Mr Lidington, it will not be the only topic.
Mr Coveney said Northern Ireland would form a big part of the discussion, in particular the need to find a way to re-establish devolved government at Stormont.
“That’s something I’m very anxious to speak to him about,” he said.