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Britain has ‘nothing credible’ to replace Brexit backstop: Ireland

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Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney delivers a speech during the opening of the French Employers’ association (Medef) “Rencontre Des Entrepreneurs” summer meeting at the Longchamp horse racetrack in Paris, on August 28, 2019. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

Britain has come up with “nothing credible” to replace the controversial Irish backstop in its deal to leave the EU, Ireland’s foreign minister said Friday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the backstop — the fallback provisions for the border between EU member Ireland and UK-ruled Northern Ireland — to be scrapped completely.

With the clock ticking down to the October 31 departure date and Johnson insisting he will not postpone, the EU is pressing Britain to come up with workable alternatives.

“We all want to get a deal but at the moment nothing credible has come from the British government in the context of an alternative to the backstop,” Simon Coveney said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki.

“If that changes, great. We’ll look at it in Dublin but more importantly, it can be the basis of a discussion in Brussels but it’s got to be credible.”

After talks with his British counterpart Dominic Raab on the sidelines of the Helsinki meeting, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said London must come up with ideas soon.

“I have once again made it clear that it is now necessary for time reasons to put the (proposals) on the table as soon as possible,” Maas told reporters.

Fears among Brexit-supporters that the backstop could leave Britain tied indefinitely to EU rules were a major reason why British MPs voted down the current divorce deal three times.

Brussels and Dublin insist the backstop is essentially to safeguard the EU single market and avoid risking the return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Johnson wants to replace the backstop with a commitment to find so-called “alternative arrangements” in the future, but Coveney said this was not good enough.

“We will not allow a really important element of the withdrawal agreement to be removed… to be replaced with something that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and is simply a promise that we’ll do our best to solve the problem but not explain how,” he said.

“That is not an approach that either Ireland or the EU will support.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok echoed the call for concrete proposals from London, saying “you cannot solve that (the Irish border problem) without details”.

Brexit negotiators from the two sides are to meet twice a week throughout September in a bid to find a way through the deadlock, London said on Thursday.

Johnson insists Britain will leave on October 31 come what may — even if it means crashing out in a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit that causes economic turmoil.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the prospect of no-deal alarmed him.

“No-deal is a catastrophe for both sides, and could cost thousands and thousands of jobs and create misery for no reason,” he said.

“I still hope that reason will prevail.”


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