Europe

Brexit: DUP 'should not influence options' - Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Simon Coveney was speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels

Ireland's foreign minister has said the DUP's influence at Westminster should not limit the British government's options in the Brexit negotiations.

Simon Coveney was speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

"I don't accept the options should be limited on the basis of the political arithmetic in the House of Commons.

"That is not how a decision as fundamental and as important to Ireland's future and Britain's future should be made," he told RTÉ.

Prime Minister Theresa May reached a deal with the DUP in June after losing her majority in the general election in June.

The DUP, that has 10 MPs, agreed to back the Conservatives in key votes - such as a Budget and a confidence motion - but are not tied into supporting them on other measures.

With regard to Brexit, Mr Coveney said: "I don't think that the solutions for the permanent new relationship between Britain and Ireland and Britain and the EU should be subject to one political party of any hue."

He added: "Lots of parties on the island of Ireland have a view here, and I think we need to try to take all of those views on board.

"Of course we listen to the DUP, but we listen to other parties, too, in Northern Ireland, and we listen to all the parties in opposition and in government in Ireland, which is what we're trying to do with the stakeholders consultations."

Last month, the DUP's Nigel Dodds said part of the confidence and supply arrangement agreed with Theresa May is about ensuring the will of the people to leave the EU, as expressed in the Brexit referendum, is delivered in a timely and proper fashion.

'Unfair playing fields'

Mr Coveney also said that if it was not possible for Britain to stay in the customs union and single market, then all sides would have to design a solution for the issues of the Irish border and co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"That's why we are asking for a rethink, and for more progress and clarity on this issue before December," he said.

"Britain and Ireland, working through the structures that involve the EU Task Force, have to find a way forward that not only Britain can live with but that Ireland can live with too.

"If Northern Ireland goes a different direction from a regulatory point of view, then you create unfair playing fields, which on the back of that there is going to have to be systems of checks and balances, and inspections to ensure standards."

In response, the DUP's Diane Dodds said: "Mr Coveney cannot on one hand claim to support the Belfast Agreement whilst ignoring the principle of consent on the other.

"The DUP wants to see sensible and practical arrangements in place when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, but separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom is simply unacceptable.

"This has been made clear by the UK government. The DUP will continue to use our influence to secure the union and deliver economic prosperity for all our people."

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