Thursday 22 August 2019

Boris Johnson plans to pull his diplomats out of meetings on EU law

Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

British diplomats will be pulled out of EU meetings on European law and policy under plans designed to show Brussels that Britain is serious about quitting the bloc on October 31.

The move, expected to take effect in a matter of days, comes after Boris Johnson said he would "unshackle" British officials from EU affairs in his first statement in the House of Commons as prime minister. Mr Johnson has vowed Britain will leave on Halloween, with or without a deal.

British diplomats attend regular working groups in Brussels on a wide range of issues such as foreign policy and consumer protection.

There is also little hope a meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Johnson will lead to a breakthrough on Brexit, Irish officials believe.

Mr Johnson is expected to travel to Dublin next month, although the exact timing and venue for the first meeting is still being discussed.

However, there is no belief on the Irish side the occasion will be more than both men setting out their already well-established positions.

Visit: Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson with Doire Finn and Aron Hughes from the Our Future Our Choice group. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Visit: Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson with Doire Finn and Aron Hughes from the Our Future Our Choice group. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The discussions are likely to take place in September despite some speculation in the UK media that they could happen sooner.

Mr Johnson yesterday reiterated his determination to leave the EU on October 31, regardless of whether a compromise can be reached.

He still maintains fresh talks cannot begin unless the EU agrees to scrap the so-called Irish backstop. It ties Northern Ireland to the EU for regulatory purposes, thereby facilitating an open Border.

"I am committed to leading our country forward and getting Britain out of the EU by October 31," he said.

The new leader of the Liberal Democrat party, which supports Remain, visited the Border region yesterday and called on Mr Johnson to do likewise. Jo Swinson said there is no "good Brexit" for Northern Ireland.

She travelled to the Border between Co Armagh and Co Louth to meet community representatives and young people.

"I felt it was important to come and listen to people and community groups about their experiences and about what the prospect of a hard Border means to the communities."

Ms Swinson also said she was "not surprised" the prime minister took almost a week to contact Mr Varadkar after he was appointed.

"He was perhaps our worst ever foreign secretary and does not possess the skills or diplomacy required for that role, so we shouldn't be shocked that in the role of prime minister he is also not demonstrating that statesmanlike approach that ought to be needed," she added.

Irish Independent

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