Monday 16 September 2019

'I'd rather be dead in a ditch': British prime minister refuses to ask Brussels for a Brexit extension

Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers
Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Talks on the backstop should be the easiest part of the Brexit process, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned ahead of a showdown with Boris Johnson.

Mr Varadkar has indicated he will not be in a compromising mood when the British prime minister comes to Dublin on Monday. Irish officials are confident the meeting will go ahead despite Mr Johnson's plan to try to collapse his own government that evening.

But the Taoiseach has sought to turn up the pressure on his embattled counterpart, saying he will not allow the UK to "merely kick the can down the road".

"A Withdrawal Agreement without the backstop is no good to us," Mr Varadkar told the British Irish Chamber of Commerce last night.

He said even if there is a deal, the EU and UK will have to enter "several years of negotiations on a new free-trade agreement and a new economic and security partnership".

The Taoiseach added: "I think it may make the negotiations on the withdrawal seem simple."

Mr Johnson's priority now appears to be convincing the UK parliament to sanction an election on October 15.

The prime minister said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask EU leaders for a Brexit extension.

But his plan to kick off what is in effect an election campaign was overshadowed yesterday when his younger brother quit the government. Jo Johnson said he had been "torn between family loyalty and the national interest".

The prime minister responded by saying Brexit "obviously divides families and divides everybody".

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar confirmed that in the event of no deal there will have to be checks on goods "near the Border".

Irish Independent

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