Varadkar to stress openness to 'realistic' backstop alternative with Johnson - but time for deal 'shrinking rapidly'
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar is to stress Ireland's openness to "realistic" alternatives to the backstop to avoid a hard border in his meeting with UK prime minister Boris Johnson this week.
But it comes against the backdrop of an Irish government warning the time to reach a deal is "shrinking rapidly".
The UK's latest proposals for alternatives for replacing the backstop have been rejected by Brussels.
Mr Varadkar is expected to meet Mr Johnson on the sidelines of the UN summits in New York on Tuesday.
The Taoiseach is taking part in the UN Summits on Climate and Sustainable Development as will as a dialogue with other world leaders on the 'Christchurch Call to Action' initiative against online terrorism.
He will also promote Ireland's bid to win a UN Security Council seat from 2021 to 2022.
On his meeting with Mr Johnson, a government spokesman said: "The Taoiseach will emphasise his openness to considering any British proposals for detailed, legally operable and realistic arrangements which achieve the objectives of the backstop.
"Those objectives are the free movement of people, goods and trade North and South, and close economic and political co-operation."
There is said to be a desire by both the UK and the EU task force who are engaged in talks to reach a "satisfactory agreement".
The spokesman added: "The EU has made clear to the UK that it is open to examining specific proposals.
"However, as October 31st is just a few weeks away, the time available to reach an agreement is shrinking rapidly and engagements from the UK need to step up a gear in order to reach a deal."
Mr Varadkar will also meet European Council President Donald Tusk and other EU leaders in New York to discuss Brexit.
The Taoiseach "will acknowledge the strong support of the European Council for the Withdrawal Agreement and the specific measures required to ensure no return of a hard border."
The spokesman said: "The Irish Government and the EU27 are engaging in a positive and constructive spirit, but significant gaps remain between the ideas put forward by the UK Government, and the legal certainty provided by the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement.
"All sides agree a negotiated deal is better than no deal."
The statement added: "The Government is doing everything it can to prepare for no deal, but we’ll work up to the last moment to secure a deal."