Sunday 22 September 2019

‘I am always willing to listen to any proposal that a British Prime Minister has' - Taoiseach expected to meet Boris Johnson next week

Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar said he may meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson next week.

He said he would listen to alternatives to the backstop, but so far suggestions have been on just managing the border, which he told RTE was not the outcome Ireland wanted.

The European Commission has said there have been no new "concrete" proposals put forward by the UK on replacing the Irish border backstop.

The Taoiseach told RTE: "I am always willing to listen to any proposal that a British Prime Minister has.

"The backstop is a means to an end.

"It is there to ensure that we continue to have frictionless trade north and south, that there is no physical infrastructure, no checks, no controls, no tariffs.

"We want that to continue to be the case. It has been the case since 1992, we want that to continue.

"Of course, I would listen to any proposals that the British Prime Minister may have to achieve that by an alternative means and we provide for alternative arrangements in the joint political declaration.

"The difficulty is that anything we have seen so far when it comes to alternative arrangements do something very different.

"They just manage a border, they facilitate tariffs, they facilitate checks, they facilitate controls but try to do it in a way that is invisible and unobtrusive, and that is better than nothing but it is not the outcome that we want to achieve.

Meanwhile, Varadkar has said he expects a “substantial financial package” will be needed in the Budget for businesses and industries that would be hit in an event of a no-deal Brexit.

He said some money will come from the European Union, but the majority “will have to come from our own resources”.

He said taxpayers in Bratislava and Rome can’t be expected to pay for decisions made in London.

The Government is to make a formal decision on whether the Budget will assume that there will be a no-deal Brexit shortly.

Mr Varadkar said officials are looking at two possible dates and that while he’s open to listening to Brexit proposals from Mr Johnson, none of the suggestions put forward for avoiding a hard border in Ireland replace the backstop.

Mr Varadkar said that there was a “very volatile” situation in Westminster at the moment and the government is waiting to see how it pans out.

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