Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Ireland plays down hopes of new Brexit deal

The EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker suggested on Thursday that a new divorce deal could be reached before October 31

A lorry passes a post-Brexit anti-border poster, outside Newry, Northern Ireland, near the border with Ireland. AFP
A lorry passes a post-Brexit anti-border poster, outside Newry, Northern Ireland, near the border with Ireland. AFP

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Friday dampened hopes that a resolution to the Brexit impasse will be found within a few weeks, after a top EU official said hours earlier that a divorce deal could be reached by October 31.

Mr Coveney said that the “mood music” on Brexit had improved but that a “wide gap” between what the UK and the EU wanted still remained.

“We are still waiting for serious proposals from the British government,” he told the BBC.

The Irish minister’s comments came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday evening that a new deal was still possible.

Mr Juncker told Sky News that the EU did not have any "emotional relationship" with the “backstop” - an insurance policy for keeping an open border on the island of Ireland which has been the main stumbling block of the negotiations.

He signalled the backstop could be ditched if an alternative solution is found, adding: "If the objectives are met - all of them - then we don't need the backstop."

Britain’s pound soared to a two-month high, rising to $1.2567 on Friday morning, in the wake of Mr Juncker’s comments.

However, Mr Coveney said the alternative solutions to the backstop presented by the UK had not been proven to be workable.

“There have been a number of proposed solutions by various groups that have been proposing alternative arrangements. When they’ve been tested, they haven’t stood up to scrutiny, that’s just the truth of it,” he added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has pledged to leave the EU with or without a deal by October 31, has said he wants the backstop to be scrapped.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, travelled to Brussels on Friday to meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in search of progress.

At home, Mr Johnson awaits a ruling by the UK’s top court on whether he broke the law by suspending Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the EU.

Judges at the Supreme Court will give their ruling early next week following a three-day hearing.

Updated: September 20, 2019 02:12 PM

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