Simon Coveney hails Brexit deal as ‘big step forward’

Ireland’s deputy premier has described the last-minute Brexit deal as a “big step forward”.

Simon Coveney, however, urged caution, telling the Irish parliament that a lot needs to happen over the coming days before there is certainty.

Mr Coveney said the deal ensures that there are no checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and this is a “significant achievement”.

“The first thing I would say is to urge caution,” the foreign affairs minister said.

What has changed in the deal relates to Northern Ireland, he added.

Mr Coveney told the Dail that the Irish Government has always been open to backstop alternatives, as long as the same outcomes can be reached.

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary said the DUP remains a “cloud” and he urged the Irish Government to engage with them after the party stood firm over its objections to the Government’s Brexit stance.

Mr Coveney said: “We maintain an open line with all political parties in Northern Ireland and I am available to any one of those parties.

“Even this week I was in Belfast meeting the Secretary of State, and met Sinn Fein for breakfast and spoke to the leaders of the SDLP and Alliance.

“Our approach has always been to listen to all political parties including unionist parties.

“We don’t always agree, but it is important to say, of course, we want to reach out.

“We want to ensure that a deal is something all parties in Northern Ireland can live with.

“That doesn’t mean we can change the deal between now and when it’s potentially voted on in Westminster, and we shouldn’t pretend we can.

“The deal is now what it is.

“It will be put to a vote on Saturday and the management of that vote from the Government is a matter for the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) and his team.”

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