Thursday 19 September 2019

Varadkar to warn Johnson he risks causing 'political instability'

Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers
Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will warn the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, he risks "damaging community relations" and causing "political instability" in Northern Ireland if he leaves the EU without a deal.

The two leaders will meet for the first time in Government Buildings tomorrow where talks will focus on Brexit negotiations.

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The Taoiseach will tell the prime minister he respects the outcome of the UK referendum but will say he has "deep concerns" about the potential return of a hard Border on the island of Ireland as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

The Taoiseach's spokesperson said Mr Varadkar will tell Mr Johnson his priorities are to protect the rights of the people in Northern Ireland, the peace process and Ireland's place in the EU single market.

"He will point out that if Northern Ireland diverges from the Republic, it has the potential to damage community relations and cause political instability in the North," he said.

"The Taoiseach will emphasise that Ireland and the EU are still committed to securing a deal but are making all necessary arrangements to manage a no-deal in the absence of any realistic, legally binding or workable alternatives," he added.

The meeting between the two leaders comes after Mr Johnson threatened to ignore his own parliament's decision to force him to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline rather than crash out of the EU without a deal. Mr Johnson wrote to Conservative Party MPs last Friday, telling them that they, "just passed a law that would force me to beg Brussels for an extension to the Brexit deadline. This is something I will never do." At a press conference last week, when asked if he would obey parliament's vote, Mr Johnson also said: "I will not. I don't want a delay."

Meanwhile, former Irish attorney-general Michael McDowell has proposed establishing an Irish confederation which would see Northern Ireland remain in the European Union while also remaining aligned with Britain.

Speaking at the Kennedy Summer School in Co Wexford, Mr McDowell suggested an Irish confederation consisting of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could allow both states retain their individual identities while aligning on EU and international trade issues.

"Under such a model, powers devolved to the confederation would relate to its membership of the EU - presuming that both parts of Ireland would be part of the EU - and to other aspects of international relations, and to other matters only where it was agreed that authority needed to be shared at a confederal level," Mr McDowell said.

He said the Irish confederacy would include some joint ministries, institutions and courts to oversee the confederation but would allow both countries to retain their separate identities and cultures. He said the confederation would pose no threat to communities on either side of the Border but would allow them to come together on issues of shared importance.

"Such a form of Irish unity would be non-threatening, consensual in character and mutually respectful," he said.

He said a confederation would be more likely to get support on both sides of the Border and from all communities in Northern Ireland than a unification referendum.

Sunday Independent

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