Wednesday 21 August 2019

Taoiseach warns incoming British PM that backstop remains a 'red line' issue

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the incoming British Prime Minister that the backstop remains a “red line” for Ireland ahead of the Brexit deadline on October 31.

The contenders for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have both suggest they will find alternatives to the current Withdrawal Agreement.

However, Mr Varadkar noted today that the two men have previously voted in favour of the deal in the House of Commons.

“Obviously I understand now that they are in a leadership contest. I think the best thing we can do is stay out of that and wait until a new prime minister is elected. When that happens I’ll be looking forward to an early meeting with the new prime minister to talk about solutions,” the Taoiseach said.

Speaking in front of ambassadors from around the world at a ‘Global Ireland’ event in Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar added: “But the absolutely red line for us is and always has been that we have to have a legally operable, legally-binding assurance that whatever else may happen as a consequence of Brexit the re-emergence of a hard border between north and south won’t be one thing.”

Asked whether the UK’s exit from the European Union could be delayed again, Mr Varadkar said there would be a “great deal of reluctance” towards another extension.

“We certainly wouldn’t rule it out. From Ireland’s point of view we’d be as facilitative to the UK as possible. But I think a lot of other countries have become frustrated at these rolling extensions.

“If there was to be another extension I think it would have to be for a particular purpose. Not for new negotiations. Not for new indicative votes.”

He added: “It would be in the context, perhaps, if there was to be a general election or something like that. It would have to be a very good reason but I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will bring three memos to Cabinet tomorrow in order to update ministers on the country preparedness for Brexit.

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