Monday 21 January 2019

No EU trade deal for UK without Border solution - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar Photo: Caroline Quinn
Leo Varadkar Photo: Caroline Quinn
John Downing

John Downing

Britain will not get any new trade deal with the EU without resolving the Irish Border crux, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted.

European leaders in Brussels will today clear the way for the final phase of British divorce negotiations, which will frame a new EU-UK relationship after Brexit in March 2019.

British and EU negotiators will open talks on this final phase next Monday and the so-called 'Withdrawal Agreement' must be agreed by October.

Mr Varadkar's comment, that a deal on the Border may take until October, was seized upon by Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly, who said it should be agreed at the next EU summit in June, and cited delay as further loss of control by the Government on the issue. "Things are going from bad to worse this week for Ireland on Brexit," Mr Donnelly said.

But the Taoiseach said the right deal in October was preferable to a bad settlement earlier. Mr Varadkar welcomed the British government's endorsement on Monday that it does after all accept the so-called "backstop" clause to ensure no return of Border controls in Ireland. Unless better arrangements can be agreed, the backstop provides for product standards and trade rules very similar to the current EU regime to apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit happens.

This appeared to be agreed by London and Brussels last December, but when more detail was published in a legal text last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, "No UK prime minister could ever agree to it".

Mr Varadkar welcomed the change of position by the British government on the issue. He said the "backstop arrangement" was the minimum required of London - but a better deal can still be achieved through the closest possible EU-UK trade deal after Brexit.

The Taoiseach ruled out suggestions "Ireland could be left behind" if all other issues - except the Border - were agreed between the EU and the UK.

"There cannot be a withdrawal agreement without a solution to the Irish Border," he said.

Irish Independent

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