U.S. Markets

Ireland knocks back Polish proposal to break Brexit deadlock over backstop

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaks at a 'Global Ireland' news conference in Dublin, Ireland January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Poland’s foreign minister said on Monday he had proposed limiting the Irish backstop to five years in order to unblock the Brexit deadlock but the idea was immediately knocked back by Ireland as being out of step with the EU’s stance.

The Irish backstop - an insurance policy to avoid the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland - is the most contentious element of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal which was overwhelmingly rejected by parliament last week.

“I’ve just discussed that idea with my (Irish) counterpart Simon Coveney and also with (British foreign minister) Jeremy Hunt today, I think it would be one of the solutions,” Poland’s Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters on entering a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“So that’s an idea to be discussed within the European Union. I don’t know if it’s feasible - if Ireland is ready to put forward such a proposal, but I have an impression that it might unblock the negotiations.”

Coveney said the idea would not work.

“He mentioned that issue in Dublin in December when he visited,” Coveney told reporters in Brussels when asked about the Polish proposal.

“I made it very clear that putting a time limit on an insurance mechanism, which is what the backstop is, effectively means that it’s not a backstop at all. I don’t think that reflects EU thinking in relation to the withdrawal agreement.”

May is due to try to break the stalemate in the British parliament later on Monday by setting out proposals that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union.

“It is clear already that a significant number of colleagues have expressed concerns around the backstop and that is one of the areas that we are going to be looking at,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Janet Lawrence