Friday 23 August 2019

'Backstop is necessary' - Taoiseach tells Boris Johnson in first phone conversation

Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has finally spoken with new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson following nearly a week of silence and has reiterated that a 'backstop is necessary' as part of a Brexit agreement.

However in response Mr Varadkar was told the backstop must be abolished "no matter what".

Downing Street has confirmed that the two leaders spoke by phone this morning some six days after Mr Johnson entered Number 10. The delay in the two leaders speaking was unprecedented in recent times.

The six day wait for a phone call had been viewed in government circles as Mr Johnson trying to "up the ante" in relation to the backstop agreement.

The Department of the Taoiseach has since released a statement on the phone call with Mr Varadkar said to have reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement "could not be reopened".

He also said that the "backstop was necessary".

"Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, as envisaged in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated," the statement read.

"The Taoiseach restated the need for both Governments to be fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement, the protection of the Peace Process and the restoration of the Northern Ireland institutions.

"He recalled that the Agreement requires the sovereign government to exercise power with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in full respect for their rights, equality, parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities," it added.

A statement released by Downing Street state that Mr Johnson “made clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on 31st October, no matter what” but said that the British government “will be steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and will never put physical checks or physical infrastructure on the border”.

“The Prime Minister made clear that the government will approach any negotiations which take place with determination and energy and in a spirit of friendship, and that his clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal, but it must be one that abolishes the backstop,” the Downing Street statement said.

While the Irish government noted that the Taoiseach had invited Mr Johnson to Dublin, there was no mention of the invitation in the read-out from Downing Street. Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman signalled yesterday that the Prime Minister would not meet EU leaders until they agreed to renegotiate the backstop.

Read more here: Boris Johnson snubs Leo Varadkar as UK 'ups ante' on stand-off over Brexit backstop

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