EU TEMPERS FLARE: Ireland blasts Boris and Hunt over ‘utterly disingenuous Brexit debate’
Mr Coveney accused the pair of having an “utterly disingenuous debate” over Brexit as they battle for the keys to Downing Street. Dublin has refrained from publicly attacking Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt throughout their leadership campaigns, despite having a growing list of concerns with their attitude towards the controversial Northern Irish backstop. Mr Coveney, who is also Ireland’s foreign secretary, has dealt personally with the Conservative MPs during their times at the Foreign Office.
But at a private Brexit meeting, he criticised the “utterly disingenuous debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt”.
Both men have pledged to scrap the backstop and renegotiate Theresa May’s hated Brexit deal if they become Britain’s next prime minister.
Mr Coveney insisted that Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are “well aware of the facts” of the situation.
Relations between the UK and Ireland are currently strained as diplomats and officials believe the border dilemma is making a no-deal Brexit “more of a reality”.
A spokesman for Mr Coveney said the Brexit stakeholders forum “is a closed and confidential meeting” and refused to respond to the comments.
Earlier this week Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay infuriated Michel Barnier by suggesting that its in the EU’s interest to avoid no deal to protect the Irish economy.
Mr Barclay was accused of “treating his trip as a job interview for a Boris Johnson government” by one EU official familiar with the discussions.
An EU diplomat described the current mood in Brussels as “bleak”, adding: “Neither Hunt or Johnson have shown us that they have a plan to avoid a no deal.”
After his meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, Mr Barclay said: “The EU also recognises that no deal is in neither side’s interest, that no deal particularly, if one looks at the asymmetric impact across Europe, particularly impacts in Ireland.
“I think the impact of no deal is greater to the Irish economy than it is to the UK, so the EU wants to avoid no deal just as much as the UK wants to avoid no deal.”
He claimed Irish exports to continental Europe would be equally impacted as British goods by queues at the Port of Dover.
He added that it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and Ireland to “find a solution” to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
“A no-deal outcome would be very damaging for Ireland,” he said. “If one looks, for example, 40 percent of their exports go through Dover.
“So when I read accounts saying that there will be queues at Dover, they will not just be queues with UK goods in, they will also be queues with 40 percent of Irish exports in.”
Mr Barclay warned his negotiating counterpart, Mr Barnier, that “time is of the essence” when Britain’s next prime minister is appointed.
“There’s a shared desire in the Commission and on the UK side for us to reach a deal and to see how we can do so,” he added.
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