Sunday 25 August 2019

Varadkar challenges Johnson on Brexit deal

New dawn: Boris Johnson has gotten the keys to 10 Downing Street. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
New dawn: Boris Johnson has gotten the keys to 10 Downing Street. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has challenged Boris Johnson to outline how a Brexit agreement can be reached as British ministers ramped up warnings that they are preparing for a no-deal crash-out.

Mr Johnson, who was appointed British prime minister last week, has vowed to scrap the backstop and threatened to lead the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

Mr Varadkar has yet to speak to his new British counterpart.

His spokesman could not last night say when the pair will be in contact either by phone or through a face-to-face meeting.

But he said that Mr Johnson himself has said he wants to leave the EU with a deal.

He added: "The Taoiseach looks forward to speaking with the prime minister in the near future and hearing about how he plans to do that."

The spokesman warned that the EU has said the Withdrawal Agreement will not be re-opened and must include the backstop.

He said there can be changes to the political declaration on the future relationship.

However, the spokesman added: "We continue to prepare intensively for no deal."

That prospect seems more likely than ever amid remarks by British ministers over the weekend.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the UK is "operating on the assumption" that Britain will leave the EU without a deal. Writing in 'The Sunday Times', he said that while the aim was still to leave with a deal, the government needed to prepare for every eventuality.

But he also warned: "We will exit the EU on October 31. No ifs. No buts. No more delay. Brexit is happening. The EU's leaders have, so far, said they will not change their approach - it's the unreformed Withdrawal Agreement, take it or leave it.

"We still hope they will change their minds, but we must operate on the assumption that they will not."

Meanwhile, Chancellor Sajid Javid promised to plough "significant extra funding" into getting Britain "fully ready to leave" on October 31 and UK Treasury Minister Rishi Sunak told Sky News his government is "turbo-charging" no-deal preparations.

Here, Government sources said there has "certainly been an increase in intensity" of no-deal rhetoric since Mr Johnson took over No 10, but also pointed out that Mr Gove's job in cabinet is to prepare for a no-deal exit.

Across the Irish Sea, both Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have criticised the idea of quitting the EU without an agreement on October 31.

Ms Davidson insisted that her position in the Scottish Parliament exists independently of Westminster and said: "Where I differ with the UK government is on the question of a no-deal Brexit."

Mr Corbyn would not say exactly when he would call a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson, but said he would "look at the situation" when Parliament returns in September, as he opposed a no deal.

Irish Independent

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