June 21, 2019 / 1:12 PM / 4 months ago

Ireland warns British PM contenders against 'dumbing down' border issue

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The contenders to become Britain’s prime minister should not “dumb down” the issues Brexit presents for the Irish border by suggesting simplistic solutions, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney during a press conference in London Britain May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The candidates seeking to succeed Theresa May have insisted they will seek to renegotiate the United Kingdom’s divorce agreement with the European Union.

In particular, they are demanding changes to the Irish “backstop” - a guarantee to ensure no return of extensive border checks between EU-member Ireland and British-run Northern Ireland.

Lead candidate Boris Johnson has said the border issue could be solved during a period of transition, while Britain sorts out future EU relations - a proposal knocked back by Dublin - while Jeremy Hunt repeated again this week that unspecified technology could keep the currently seamless border open.

“I’m very careful not to get involved in the leadership contest in the UK, that would be wrong... But I think it is important that what are presented as facts in the debates we’ve heard to date are actually scrutinised and challenged,” Coveney was quoted as saying by the Irish Times newspaper.

“I do think some of the rhetoric we have heard in the context of the leadership debates in the UK is simply not based on reality - I say that respectfully - these issues cannot be dumbed down into simplistic solutions such as technology will provide all the answers.

“We have to respect the British political system, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the commentary in relation to Ireland and Ireland’s position on Brexit is based on facts... People are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told the Newstalk radio station on Friday he was worried about the claims being made in the political debate in Britain where the trade-offs that come with leaving the EU are still not being discussed.

May announced a month ago that she would step down after failing to get her Brexit deal agreed by parliament.

After being whittled down to two candidates by Conservative Party lawmakers, the 160,000 grassroots members of the party will be asked to choose between Johnson and Hunt to be their new party leader, and prime minister, with the result due next month. Johnson is favourite to win.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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