Wednesday 29 January 2020

UK must consider damage of EU money U-turn - Varadkar

British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the Reece Group's Armstrong Works in Newcastle in England, where she met staff and held a question and answer session after holding a cabinet meeting in nearby Gateshead. Photo: Russel Cheyne
British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the Reece Group's Armstrong Works in Newcastle in England, where she met staff and held a question and answer session after holding a cabinet meeting in nearby Gateshead. Photo: Russel Cheyne

Shona Murray

Britain should consider the damage to its international relationships if it tries to renege on its financial commitment to the EU, the Taoiseach has warned.

Mr Varadkar was responding to a threat made by British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab who suggested the UK could now insist on 'conditionality' to its previous agreement to pay off the money it owes Brussels.

The financial settlement is an estimated figure that the UK is obliged to pay the EU based on the various outstanding commitments that exist from over 45 years of EU membership.

"The settlement which the UK has agreed to in principle, bear in mind, are obligations and commitments that they have already made," the Taoiseach said.

"I think any country seeking to make treaties and agreements into the future, in particular international treaties and agreements into the future, will want to honour those obligations."

Mr Varadkar was speaking in the Croatian capital Zagreb, where he held a bilateral meeting with the country's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

He said he didn't directly ask for assurances from the Croatians to defend Ireland's position on the Border in the case of a no-deal scenario.

Under World Trade Organisation rules and the laws governing the EU single market, Ireland is obliged to erect a customs and regulatory border with any third country in order to check for unauthorised or substandard goods entering the internal market.

Asked whether he got such assurances, he said: "Well we actually didn't discuss that in any detail, but I think everyone understands Ireland's position when it comes to there not being a physical or hard Border between North and south - it's just something that we cannot contemplate. I think there is a real understanding from every member state that we need to avoid that, first of all through the withdrawal treaty, and then through the final relationship."

A spokesperson for the Croatian prime minister said there was no change to the country's "official position" and Croatia supports Ireland in the sense that post-Brexit "there are no disruptions" to the status quo.

Mr Plenkovic described Brexit as a "lose, lose, lose situation" and was won through "manipulation by populists".

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that without a "change in approach from the EU negotiators", there is now a "very real risk of a Brexit no deal by accident".

He warned of "unintended geopolitical consequences", with Vladimir Putin "rejoicing" if there was no deal.

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan touched on the prospect of a no-deal on Brexit.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School he said: "It is a very high probability. The way things are going... there are a lot of imponderables which would lead everybody to believe, and certainly the view of the European Commission, that we should prepare for a no deal."

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says it wants a deal, "not a disorderly Brexit". "We know that everyone has to make mutual concessions to get this deal," he said.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Amazon's UK boss warned Mr Raab Britain would face "civil unrest" within weeks of a no-deal Brexit. Doug Gurr, the retail giant's UK manager, reportedly made the comment during a meeting between Mr Raab and a group of senior business executives on Friday.

Amazon declined to confirm whether Mr Gurr had made the remarks, reported in the 'Times', but a spokesperson said: "Like any business, we consider a wide range of scenarios in planning discussions, even if those scenarios are very unlikely."

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May began a summer charm offensive by reaffirming her plans to bolster the "powerhouse" of northern England.

She chaired a cabinet meeting in Gateshead before meeting factory workers for a rare town-hall-style event.

She told workers in a factory: "The future post-Brexit is going to be what we make it.

"We want to get that good deal with the European Union, but we have huge benefits here in the UK, with our entrepreneurship, our innovation, our skill-set, our workforces."

Irish Independent

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