Ireland won’t be used as a pawn in Brexit talks, says Brokenshire

23 August 2017, Irish Independent.

The UK government isn’t playing a game in relation to Ireland in the Brexit talks, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State has said.

Amid claims from the Government here that it won’t allow the country to be used as a pawn and could stall the talks unless it is happy with developments, James Brokenshire said his government took the progress made on the island “firmly to heart”. He said London wanted to get the best outcome for Northern Ireland in the negotiations.

He also defended David Davis after it was put to him that the Brexit Secretary had not visited the Border region – the UK’s land border with the EU – since taking office over a year ago.

“He takes his responsibilities as Secretary of State hugely seriously,” Mr Brokenshire said, in an interview with the Irish Independent. “The very first visit he did as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU was to Northern Ireland. Therefore I think it would be wrong to question Mr David’s complete focus on issues affecting the island of Ireland. He is very well informed on these issues.”

Mr Brokenshire was in Dublin yesterday to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Jobs Minister Frances Fitzgerald just under a week after London published two position papers on customs and Ireland/Northern Ireland issues post Brexit.

The Taoiseach said yesterday the UK needed to provide more clarity on trade, and has warned that the Government would stall talks if a satisfactory deal on Northern Ireland was not reached. He said Ireland would not be used as a pawn.

“This is not some sort of game that’s being played here at all,” Mr Brokenshire said, when asked how he would reassure the Government. “These are serious issues about the way in which people live their lives on this island and in our approach, in respect of getting the best outcome for Northern Ireland, that remains our firm guiding principle as we look to the months ahead and the negotiations to come.”

Mr Brokenshire said the UK government had now put forward “creative and flexible approaches”. In relation to the restoration of power sharing in the North, Mr Brokenshire said he wanted to see the talks resuming at the earliest opportunity, but warned he might have to step in and pass a budget if agreement couldn’t be reached.

“Time is moving on. When we get into the autumn period that is when we are starting to get to crunch points in respect of a budget in Northern Ireland and in respect of public services,” he said.