Ireland’s deputy premier says backstop needed but he hopes it will not be used

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There is no other credible fall-back solution to replace the backstop that would allay Irish fears of seeing a “corrosive” hard border on the island of Ireland, the country’s foreign affairs minister has said.

Simon Coveney told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that, even though the Irish government did not want to use the insurance mechanism contained in the draft withdrawal agreement, it had to be included.

“We are all committed to ensuring that the backstop never takes effect and should it take effect, we are committed to trying to ensure that it is only temporary so that it can be replaced with something more permanent,” Mr Coveney said.

“But for the moment in my view, there is not another credible fall-back solution that can take the place of the backstop and that is why EU leaders have been so clear and why the British Prime Minister has been so clear that there is a need for the backstop, even though we want to avoid using it.”

Irish government
Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The backstop is about preventing the threat to the normality and stability and peaceful relations that have built up over the last two decades on the island of Ireland and ensuring that we don’t have the corrosive impact in the future of enforced border infrastructure between the two jurisdictions,” he said.

The deputy premier commended Prime Minister Theresa May for following through on political commitments she made last December and for her understanding the “fragility and complexity” of politics on the island of Ireland.

Mr Coveney said she recognised the “need for an insurance mechanism that can allay the fears and address the fears that many people have of seeing physical border infrastructure reemerging on our island”.

Mr Coveney said the Irish government was continuing to prepare “for all eventualities”.

Part of a former smuggling route covering both sides of the Irish border (Michael McHugh/PA)

“Work is taking place now to do that.”

Mr Coveney said the Government had agreed in July to take on 1,077 extra inspectors and staff at airports and ports due to Brexit and that recruitment campaigns were already under way.

He said more than 3,000 people had applied for the initial 600 jobs advertised.

In the event of a no-deal scenario he said that panel would allow the government to increase the number of custom officials they take on if needed.

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