Sunday 25 August 2019

No deal has 'massively negative consequences for both sides' - EU chief Von der Leyen

New EC President Ursula von der Leyen is prepared to listen. Picture: Reuters
New EC President Ursula von der Leyen is prepared to listen. Picture: Reuters

Kevin Doyle and Ralph Riegel

A hard Brexit will come with "massively negative consequences for both sides", the incoming chief of the European Commission has said.

Ursula von der Leyen has refused to accept the Withdrawal Agreement is dead despite both contenders to be UK prime minister saying it needs wholesale changes.

"No, it is a good agreement, which was negotiated properly in accordance with the red lines drawn by the British government," she said.

In an interview with a number of UK media outlets, Ms Von der Leyen said: "A Brexit without a deal comes with massively negative consequences for both sides, not to mention what it means for Ireland.

"That's why we need to do everything to strive for an orderly Brexit. And that's why if there are good reasons for an extension coming from our British friends, I am open to listening."

Her comments were echoed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who stressed there would be absolutely no changes to the Irish backstop or the Withdrawal Agreement.

Alternatives

But he said Ireland and the EU were willing to negotiate tweaks to the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Co Wexford, said he was more than willing to listen to whatever Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt have to say about fresh options for ending the worrying Brexit impasse.

He also insisted that Ireland was doing everything possible to prepare for a possible crash-out Brexit, where the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The Taoiseach visited Rosslare Port to examine what systems Ireland's Europort has developed for such a scenario.

He said he remained hopeful that the UK would leave the EU by the October 31 deadline with an agreement in place between London and Brussels.

But he warned there would be no scuttling of the Irish backstop amid frenzied speculation in London that the provision will now be the main target of the new British leader.

"The position of the EU and of Ireland is that the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, is not up for renegotiation," he said.

"But the political declaration does include provision for alternative arrangements and alternative actions.

"I would be very happy to listen to the new prime minister to hear what he has to say and to see if he can convince the EU and Ireland that any alternative arrangements are developed enough that they could supersede the backstop.

"But I don't think we are anywhere near that yet," Mr Varadkar added.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have insisted the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish backstop can be renegotiated.

Irish Independent

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