Sunday 16 December 2018

Varadkar: A no-deal Brexit would make it 'very difficult' to avoid a hard border

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that it would be “very difficult” to avoid a hard border in Ireland if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said that such a scenario would see Ireland being asked to implement EU law and the UK having to comply with World Trade Organisation rules.

His remarks come amid continuing chaos in Westminster and huge uncertainty on whether or not Theresa May can get her government’s Brexit deal with the EU through parliament.

That deal would prevent a hard border in Ireland as all of the UK would stay in a form of customs union with the EU.

However, it is being opposed by Brexiteers in Mrs May’s own party.

Mr Varadkar this afternoon said Mrs May is going to have “quite a battle” to get the deal through the House of Commons.

And he said that “in a no-deal scenario it would be very difficult to avoid a hard border”.

Mr Varadkar warned “hard Brexiteers” that “good political will” is not enough to avoid a hard border in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “The only way we can avoid a hard border is by an agreement, an agreement that covers customs and regulations.

“We have that now”.

He said that he’s heard speculation about different scenarios coming from politicians who are opposed to the current deal.

He added: “while I’m hearing people opposing what’s been negotiated I’m not really hearing any of the opponents putting forward an alternative that allows us to avoid a hard border that protects citizens’ rights and allows trade to continue normally across Ireland Britain and Europe.

“That’s what has been achieved in this agreement.”

Earlier, Michael Gove threw a beleaguered Mrs May a lifeline after deciding that he will remain in her Government as Environment Secretary.

Following the resignation of four ministers in the wake of her poorly-received Brexit deal on Thursday, speculation was rife that the departure of the most senior Leave campaigner in her Cabinet could deal a damaging blow to Mrs May.

But a source close to Mr Gove told the Press Association: "Michael is staying at Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

"He thinks it is important to continue working with Cabinet colleagues to ensure the best outcome for the country."

Asked whether she could afford the loss of Mr Gove from her team, Mrs May told radio station LBC: "I want all of my colleagues in the Cabinet to feel able to carry on doing the excellent job they are doing."

Mr Gove was reported to have been offered the post of Brexit Secretary vacated by Dominic Raab, but to have said he would only take it if he could renegotiate the EU withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May said she had "a very good conversation" with Mr Gove on Thursday, but declined to say what they had discussed, other than the future of the fishing industry after Brexit.

She denied that she had had a "testy exchange" over Brexit with Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority administration in the Commons.

But she left no doubt she was aware she cannot guarantee DUP support when Brexit comes to the Commons, saying: "Every individual MP will decide how they will vote, whether they are DUP, Conservative, Labour.

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