Saturday 21 September 2019

UK will not be able to make 'clean break' from EU even if Brexit deal is agreed - Taoiseach warns

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at the British Irish Chamber of commerce gala dinner
Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at the British Irish Chamber of commerce gala dinner Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Kevin Doyle and Ian Begley

THE United Kingdom will not be able to make a “clean break” from the EU even if a Brexit deal is agreed, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned.

In a speech that will up the ante ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Dublin on Monday, the Taoiseach said a breakthrough will only be achieved if the UK produces “realistic” alternatives to the backstop.

“We have received no such proposals to date,” he said.

Irish officials are confident a meeting between the two officials will go ahead despite Mr Johnson’s plan to try collapse his own government that evening.

The showdown will attract huge attention across Europe after a week of political carnage in the House of Commons.

Addressing the British Irish Chamber of Commerce tonight, Mr Varadkar indicated he will take a tough approach to the talks.

He warned the UK will not be allowed to “merely kick the can down the road”.

“A Withdrawal Agreement without the backstop is no good to us,” Mr Varadkar said.

He hopes Mr Johnson will bring genuine proposals to Farmleigh House – but added that in any event “there is no such things as a clean break”.

It comes after Mr Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask EU leaders for an extension.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at the British Irish Chamber of commerce gala dinner
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks at the British Irish Chamber of commerce gala dinner Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

He even refused to rule out resigning, saying: “It costs a billion pounds a month, it achieves absolutely nothing, what is the point of further delay. I think it’s totally, totally pointless.”

Significantly Mr Varadkar said tonight that a no deal Brexit will  result in checkpoints “near the border”. Previously the Government has refused to go further than to say checks would be “away” from the border.

He said if even if there is a deal the EU and UK will have to enter “several years of negotiations on a new free trade agreement and a new economic and security partnership. That will be fraught.”

The Taoiseach added: “I think it may make the negotiations on the Withdrawal seem simple.”

In a no deal scenario, Mr Varadkar predicted there will be a period of separation before the EU and UK have to engage again.

“The first and only items on the agenda for such negotiations will be citizens’ rights, the financial settlement with the EU and a solution to the Irish Border. All the issues we spent the last two years on.”

He did promise that even if there is a hard Brexit, there will be “no need for tax increases, spending cuts or reductions in pay, pensions or welfare”.

In a thinly-veiled swipe at US Vice-President Mike Pence, the Taoiseach also said the EU has been “firm and respectful” in dealing with the UK and negotiated “in good faith”.

Mr Pence caused considerable annoyance in government circles earlier this week when he used a visit to Dublin to suggest the EU had been disingenuous and unfair to Boris Johnson.

The Vice-President was in London yesterday where he said the US would move quickly to agree a trade deal with the UK after Brexit.

During a joint media appearance, Mr Johnson quipped:  “We’re not too keen on your chlorinated chicken - we have a gigantic chlorinated chicken of our own here on the opposition benches.” This was a reference to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to facilitate an immediate general election.

Online Editors

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