Ireland’s deputy PM urges caution amid Westminster talk of ‘imminent breakthrough’ on Brexit deal

Posted On: 
8th November 2018

Ireland’s deputy prime minister has urged Britain not to take for granted the chances of a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations in the coming days.

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney
PA Images

Simon Coveney played down reports that a deal was close, amid speculation that an emergency Cabinet meeting could take place next week to formally sign an agreement off.

It is thought that proposals to protect the Northern Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit are the last sticking point left to hammer out in the talks.

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Theresa May yesterday made available a copy of the proposed deal for senior ministers to read, however it did not contain any text on the contentious issue of the Irish backstop.

Speaking in Dublin, the Tanaiste warned the Conservatives against “negotiating with themselves,” adding that it would be wrong to view a decision by British ministers as “end of story”.

“I would urge caution. An imminent breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot,” he said after a speech to Canadian business leaders.

“Repeatedly people seem to make the same mistake over and over again, assuming that if the British cabinet agrees something, then that is it, everything is agreed.

“This is a negotiation and needs to be an agreement, of course, between the British government, but also between the 27 countries and Michel Barnier and his negotiating team."

His comments came as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told journalists in Paris he was “confident” the UK can secure a Brexit deal in “the next three weeks” but that securing a pact in the next seven days was “pushing it”.

Mr Coveney's intervention follows that of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who yesterday played down hopes of a November summit to sign off a deal.

“The possibility of getting a special summit in November becomes less likely, but we do have one scheduled anyway for 13 December,” he told reporters in Finland.

“Not getting it done in November doesn’t mean we can’t get it done in the first two weeks of December; beyond that we’d be into the new year but that wouldn’t be a good thing."

Downing Street sources yesterday told the Guardian that the text made available to ministers just shows “where we are so far” and that it “does not imply that a deal has been done”.