Sunday 18 August 2019

'No-deal isn't unavoidable' and Brexit will 'go on and on' after October deadline - Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that Brexit will “go on and on and on” regardless of what happens on October 31.

While accusing some in the UK of “historic revisionism” on how the backstop became central to the EU-UK negotiations, Mr Varadkar said a crash-out scenario will not be the end of the story.

Mr Varadkar said: “This doesn't end on October 31. You know some people, I know have become weary of Brexit and they may take the view that this should end on October 31- either with a deal or with No deal. This doesn't end on October 31.

“If there is a deal, we are going to enter into several years of negotiations on a new free trade agreement with the UK and a new economic and security partnership.

“ If there is no deal, then at a certain point, we will have to begin negotiations again and the first items on the agenda will be citizens rights, the financial settlement and the solution to the Irish border.”

He added: “So Brexit isn't a storm that we weather or a severe weather event that we prepare for- it is a permanent change in relations between the European Union, including Ireland, and the United Kingdom. And I think that needs to borne in mind.”

The Taoiseach is taking part in a series of events in Belfast today, including a tour of the queen’s Northern Ireland residence Hillsborough Castle.

He said that even if the UK leaves at Halloween without a deal, there will eventually have to be some form of new process that starts with talks on citizens’ rights and the Irish border.

Mr Varadkar accepted a disorderly Brexit is becoming more likely – but added that it can still be avoided.

“No I don’t accept that is unavoidable. There are many ways by which no-deal can be avoid. Either the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, a further extension or the revocation of Article 50. So there are a number of ways it can be avoided,” he said.

Read more here: John Downing: 'Warnings are ignored as no-deal rhetoric raises the risk. For Johnson, it's now all about an election win'

“I’m certainly not fatalistic about that. In terms of the EU position, our position is that the Withdrawal Agreement including the backstop is closed. But there is always room for talks and negotiations.

“For example, we can certainly make changes to the political declarations, and we’ve demonstrated before that it’s possible to give clarifications as requested by Prime Minster May in the past.”

Mr Varadkar restated his invitation for new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to visit Dublin so that they can have face-to-face discussion on the backstop and the state of Anglo-Irish relations.

Read more here: Eoghan Harris: 'Leo Varadkar has left it too late even to eat humble pie'

He said the invitation was on the basis of both sides having no pre-conditions.

On the question of a border poll, Mr Varadkar said he believes the issue not brought into the Brexit debate.

“But we can't bury our heads in the sand. If we ended up in a no deal scenario that could well happen. What we're trying to achieve here with the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop is the status quo. That is continued free movement of people north and south, east and west, continued free trade,” he said.

“There's been a bit of historical revisionism at the moment, almost trying to make out that the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop was an Irish invention or an EU invention imposed on the United Kingdom.

“That is so not the case. The backstop and the withdrawal agreement were co-designed by the UK government and the EU, they were drawn very much around the red lines of the UK government, and that is how we got to this point.

“And if we're going to start from scratch I think it would take us a long time to come to another agreement on that basis.”


More to follow...

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