Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ireland Warns Britain: PS40bn Can't Buy You Talks

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ireland Warns Britain: PS40bn Can't Buy You Talks

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Collins Brussels Correspondent and Joe Murphy EXCLUSIVE

THERESA MAY was today warned that paying a bigger EU divorce bill is not enough to unlock vital trade talks.

Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said his country still has a veto and is prepared to use it. He told the Standard that trade talks will not be allowed to begin until the UK also agrees to maintain the open border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

He said: "Anybody who thinks that just because the financial settlement issue gets resolved [] that somehow Ireland will have a hand put on the shoulder and be told, 'Look, it's time to move on.' Well, we're not going to move on."

He said there was "a lot of solidarity" around the EU table for Ireland's position. Mr Coveney's intervention makes clear that Mrs May's hopes of getting trade talks started at a summit in Brussels next month could still be dashed. Last night she persuaded key Cabinet Brexiteers to accept a higher cash offer to Brussels on condition that it be tied to trade talks getting started. No official figure has been put on the bill but the total is reportedly about PS38 billion in payments to the EU after Brexit. Payments are one of three priorities set by the EU to start trade talks, along with citizens' rights and the Irish border.

The latter is emerging as the most intractable, and officials are downbeat about finding a solution before the December 14-15 summit. "It's hard to know," Mr Coveney said of the deadline. "There are a lot of things Britain aspires to, in the context of Brexit, which I don't believe to be compatible with the realities of the situation we're facing." British officials say the border can only be solved as part of an overall trade deal. Mr Coveney said leaving it until later in the talks would be "a leap into the dark". Ireland wants assurances now that there will not be a visible border after Brexit. Mr Coveney said: "This is a much bigger issue than trade. …

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