Britain has 'nothing credible' to replace Brexit backstop: Ireland

Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he "will not allow a really important element of the withdrawal agreement to be removed". PHOTO: REUTERS

HELSINKI (AFP) - Britain has come up with "nothing credible" to replace the controversial Irish backstop in its deal to leave the European Union, Ireland's foreign minister said on Friday (Aug 30).

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the backstop - the fallback provisions for the border between EU member Ireland and the United Kingdom-ruled Northern Ireland - to be scrapped completely.

With the clock ticking down to the Oct 31 departure date and Mr Johnson insisting he will not postpone, the EU is pressing Britain to come up with workable alternatives.

"We all want to get a deal but at the moment nothing credible has come from the British government in the context of an alternative to the backstop," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki.

"If that changes, great. We'll look at it in Dublin, but more importantly, it can be the basis of a discussion in Brussels, but it's got to be credible."

Fears among Brexit-supporters that the backstop could leave Britain tied indefinitely to EU rules were a major reason why British MPs voted down the current divorce deal three times.

Brussels and Dublin insist the backstop is essentially to safeguard the EU single market and avoid risking the return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson wants to replace the backstop with a commitment to find so-called "alternative arrangements" in the future, but Mr Coveney said this was not good enough.

"We will not allow a really important element of the withdrawal agreement to be removed... to be replaced with something that doesn't stand up to scrutiny and is simply a promise that we'll do our best to solve the problem but not explain how," he said.

"That is not an approach that either Ireland or the EU will support."

Brexit negotiators from the two sides are to meet twice a week throughout September in a bid to find a way through the deadlock, London said on Thursday.

Mr Johnson insists Britain will leave on Oct 31 come what may - even if it means crashing out in a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit that causes economic turmoil.

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