Brexit: New UK PM will not alter withdrawal deal - Coveney

Simon CoveneyImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Mr Coveney suggested many British politicians do not understand the complexity of NI politics

Ireland's deputy prime minister has ruled out any renegotiation of the Brexit withdrawal deal if Theresa May is replaced as UK prime minister.

Speaking on RTÉ, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said "the personality might change but the facts don't".

He described Mrs May as a "decent person" and strongly criticised Conservative MPs at Westminster.

Mrs May has promised to set a timetable for the election of her successor after the next Brexit vote.

Mr Coveney described political events at Westminster as "extraordinary", as he questioned the logic of politicians who believed a change of leader would deliver changes to the agreement struck by Mrs May.

He said Conservative MPs were "impossible" on the issue of Brexit.

"The EU has said very clearly that the Withdrawal Agreement has been negotiated over two-and-a-half years, it was agreed with the British government and the British cabinet and it's not up for renegotiation, even if there is a new British prime minister," he said.

He told RTÉ's This Week programme that many British politicians "don't, quite frankly, understand the complexity of politics in Northern Ireland".

"They have tried to dumb this debate down into a simplistic argument whereby it's Britain versus the EU, as opposed to two friends tying to navigate through the complexity of a very, very difficult agreement," he added.

Mr Coveney also said the Irish government would continue to focus significant efforts and financial resources towards planning for a no-deal Brexit scenario, following Friday's collapse of Brexit talks in the UK.

He said time was of the essence for the UK to get a deal through Parliament, adding that he was concerned Britain would not "get its act together over summer" and leave without a deal.

On Wednesday, Mrs May announced that MPs would vote on the bill that would pave the way for Brexit in the week beginning 3 June.

If the bill is not passed, the default position is that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October without a deal.

Brexit had been due to take place on 29 March.

But the UK was given an extension until 31 October after MPs three times voted down the withdrawal agreement Mrs May had negotiated with the EU - by margins of 230, 149 and 58 votes.