Monday 19 August 2019

'Boris Brexit plan not in real world' - Varadkar


New Prime Minister Boris Johnson returning to Downing Street, London after visiting the Houses of Parliament. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson returning to Downing Street, London after visiting the Houses of Parliament. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dismissed Boris Johnson's Brexit rhetoric as he vowed there would be no opportunity for Britain to negotiate a new deal.

The risk of a crash-out Brexit intensified as Mr Varadkar and several EU leaders openly challenged the new UK prime minister to table specific ideas.

"Confidence and enthusiasm are no substitute for a comprehensive EU policy," Mr Varadkar warned, acknowledging that the British and Irish governments were "at odds" with each other.

The Taoiseach added that Mr Johnson's comments on the backstop were "not in the real world" and a new Brexit deal was "not going to happen".

It followed a dramatic day of sackings and resignations as the newly anointed prime minister began a major overhaul of Theresa May's government.

Dominic Cummings, the man who framed the false Brexit pledge of £350m (€392m) extra per week for the health service via an EU subscriptions clawback, has been appointed to advise Mr Johnson on the issue.

The appointment has been greeted with joy by Brexiteers – but roundly condemned by Remain MPs in all parties.

The announcement has come despite UK MPs earlier this year passing a formal motion condemning Mr Cummings for his “significant interference” in the work of a parliament committee probe into “fake news”.

Making waves: Boris Johnson at the door of Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images
Making waves: Boris Johnson at the door of Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images

The man whose fame was elevated by Channel 4’s drama ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War’, was also the architect of the “take back control” slogan and frankly admitted his campaign relied on harsh anti-immigration messages.

More than half of Mrs May’s outgoing cabinet either quit or were sacked as the new UK leader sought to stamp his authority on a radically new cabinet.

Mr Johnson heralded his arrival as prime minister at the formal residence of Number 10 Downing Street in London with a vow that Britain will leave the EU “no ifs or buts” by October 31.

The new prime minister said he would strike a new deal with Brussels in just 99 days – and if not, he would seek to take the UK out of the EU without a deal.

“After three years of unfounded self-doubt it is time to change the record, to recover our natural and historic role as an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain,” said Mr Johnson.

He said there would be no return of a hard Border in Ireland – but the backstop in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement would have to go.

“I say to our friends in Ireland, and in Brussels and around the EU, I am convinced that we can do a deal without checks at the Irish Border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks, and yet without that anti-democratic backstop,” he said.

The Taoiseach took to RTÉ television to give the Government’s response. Mr Varadkar again formally congratulated Mr Johnson and said he looked forward to meeting him and forming a good relationship with the government teams in London and Dublin.

But the Taoiseach said he needed to hear details of Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit.

“Confidence and enthusiasm are no substitute for a comprehensive EU policy,” Mr Varadkar added.

He scotched any suggestion that Mr Johnson would be able to deliver a new deal before the deadline on October 31.

“The EU Council doesn’t meet until October 12, we have no plans to meet any earlier. Any suggestion that there could be a whole new deal negotiated within weeks is totally not in the real world,” the Taoiseach added.

Mr Varadkar said both Dublin and the EU were determined there would be no reopening of the EU-UK divorce deal done by Mrs May.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that relations between Dublin and London had been damaged in the wake of the Brexit process.

He stressed that time was now very short but he also said the Westminster parliament would block a no-deal outcome.

In Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier also made it clear that there were no plans to renegotiate the divorce deal.

“We look forward to hearing what the new prime minister Boris Johnson wants,” said Mr Barnier.

In a terse letter to the new UK leader, European Council president Donald Tusk demanded “details” on Brexit.

Despite a bullish approach to his new role, Mr Johnson is nonetheless heading a government without a parliamentary majority and with most British lawmakers opposed to leaving the EU without a divorce deal.

Amid major changes to government personnel in Westminster, Sajid Javid was appointed as chancellor of the exchequer, with Brexiteers Priti Patel and Dominic Raab appointed home secretary and foreign secretary respectively.

Mr Raab will also be Mr Johnson’s deputy PM, while Michael Gove becomes a sort of government enforcer, and Steve Barclay remains as Brexit secretary.

Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson’s rival in the Tory leadership race, left the government after refusing to be demoted from foreign secretary.

Penny Mordaunt and Liam Fox, prominent backers of Mr Hunt, were among the first to be sacked along with outgoing Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and her predecessor in that job, James Brokenshire.

Irish Independent

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