Simon Coveney heads to Brussels amid Brexit impasse

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney will meet his EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday as the Brexit impasse continues.

Mr Coveney is in the Belgian capital to attend a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council where discussions on Moldova, China and Yemen are on the agenda.

But the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is also likely to form part of the debate.

The meeting comes ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels later this week and amid mounting pressure on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to get MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement deal in a third vote in the House of Commons this week.

A sign on the from Irish border between Derrylin, Co Fermanagh and Ballyconnell, Co Cavan (David Young/PA)

Mrs May warned MPs on Sunday that if they fail to back her Brexit deal at the third time of asking then Brussels might insist on a lengthy delay, potentially scuppering chances of leaving the European Union altogether.

If Mrs May cannot get the votes she is expected to attend the EU summit on Thursday to ask for a longer extension.

Mr Coveney told RTE News on Sunday: “If she’s asking for a longer extension I expect there will need to be a plan to go with that ask to convince EU partners that there is method behind that approach.

“Presumably that will mean seeking time to build consensus around a new approach to Brexit coming from London but of course that brings with it a lot of uncertainty.”

Irish premier Leo Varadkar will meet European Council president Donald Tusk in Dublin on Tuesday to consider any requests from the UK to delay Brexit.

Meanwhile the Irish government continues to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

Irish President Michael D Higgins signed the government’s draft emergency Brexit contingency legislation into law on Sunday evening.

Mr Coveney thanked Mr Higgins for signing it into law but said he hoped it was never required.

He tweeted: “Legally we are as #Brexitready as we can be, thanks to the cooperation of all political parties.

“Let’s hope this legislation is never needed, thanks @PresidentIRL #Brexit.”

Legally we are as #Brexitready as we can be, thanks to the cooperation of all political parties. Let’s hope this legislation is never needed, thanks @PresidentIRL#Brexit .

— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) March 17, 2019

Speaking ahead of the EU foreign affairs meeting, Mr Coveney said: “My EU colleagues and I will discuss the situation in Moldova, following the recent parliamentary elections there, and the political perspectives for EU engagement with Moldova.

“Ministers will also examine the EU’s relations with China, ahead of the upcoming EU-China Summit.

“This is a very important relationship, given China’s increasingly prominent role in global forums and the turbulent global environment,” he said.

“We will also have the opportunity to discuss this relationship with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi.

“Finally, we will have an exchange of views on what the EU can do to support the UN-led peace process in Yemen and facilitate the delivery of vital humanitarian aid.”