Wednesday 21 August 2019

There will be no changes to the back-stop or the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warns UK

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Rosslare Europort
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. (Yui Mok/PA)

Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stressed that while Ireland and the EU were willing to negotiate tweaks to the Brexit political declaration with the new British Prime Minister there would be no changes to the Irish back-stop or the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Wexford, said he was more than willing to listen to whatever the new British prime minister, either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, had 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.

Rosslare Europort

The Taoiseach was visiting Rosslare Port to examine what systems Ireland's EuroPort has developed for such a scenario.

Mr Varadkar 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, amid frenzied speculation in London that the provision will now be the main target of the new British leader, he warned there would be no scuttling of the Irish back-stop.

READ MORE: UK economy may already be on cusp of recession and no-deal Brexit will add extra annual £30bn debt

"The position of the EU and of Ireland is that the Withdrawal Agreement and the back-stop, 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 back-stop.

"But I don't think we are anywhere near that yet."

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. (Yui Mok/PA)

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have insisted the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish back-stop can be renegotiated.

"What we are talking about is a political declaration that has already been agreed, but we all agreed could be enhanced or amended," the Taoiseach said.

"But that does not mean changing the withdrawal agreement or the back-stop, which is part of the withdrawal agreement."

READ MORE: FF leader predicts U-turn on backstop once new UK prime minister takes office

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