Sunday 15 September 2019

'We may need border checks in no-deal Brexit... but no locations identified yet' - Varadkar

  • Varadkar said alternative proposals on the border so far 'fall very far short'
  • He stressed it's not 'to be assumed' that there will be border checks
  • 'Some checks may need to take place near the border but we don't have any locations identified'
  • 'The problem with Brexit.... is it's all about divergence' - Taoiseach
  • Government 'disagrees' with UK government's interpretation that people in Northern Ireland are just 'British'
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the FG think-in yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the FG think-in yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said some checks will have to take place in the event of a no-deal Brexit - but admitted the location of border checks have not yet been identified.

In an interview on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said alternative proposals on the border so far "fall very far short".

"The gap is very wide, but we will fight (against) ... no-deal until the last moment, but not at any cost," Varadkar said.

"We always said we are willing to explore alternative arrangements ... but so far I think it is fair to say that what we are seeing falls very far short of what we need," he added.

Read more: 'UK hasn't proposed any legally credible or workable backstop alternatives' - Michel Barnier

Mr Varadkar said, answering the question on a "hypothetical level", there will be possible checks in Ireland after Brexit at airports, ports and at business level in the event of a no-deal Brexit. He stressed it's not "to be assumed" that there will be border checks.

"Some checks may need to take place near the border but we don't have any locations identified," he said.

He said the government will let people know of the locations "when we know".

"We don't know yet, when arrangements are agreed, what I can say to anybody who operates a business along the border, who may face SPS checks or other checks we will give them plenty of notice. It's not going to be a sudden announcement or an overnight decision," Mr Varadkar said.

Yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said any checks introduced will only be considered a "temporary arrangement" by Ireland.

Read more: Border checks after no-deal Brexit will only be a 'temporary arrangement' - Coveney

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said there is work for his government to do in explaining to the new British government what the Good Friday Agreement is "both in terms of letter and in spirit".

Mr Varadkar said the Good Friday Agreement was all about convergence and bringing everyone closer together.

"The problem with Brexit, particularly the type of Brexit which is now being advocated by the British government, it's all about divergence, it's all about making the UK different from Europe and therefore making Northern Ireland different from the Republic of Ireland and that is a fundamental conflict that exists between the Good Friday Agreement and Brexit," he said.

Asked about the position of the British government being that everyone in Northern Ireland is British, Mr Varadkar said "we disagree with their interpretation".

"We've had this conversation with the British government. As far as we're concerned, the Good Friday Agreement is explicit. It says that everyone in Northern Ireland is British or Irish or both and can be accepted as such and we disagree with their interpretation," he added.

Meanwhile, the DUP has insisted it would not be accepting a backstop by a different name, amid reports they would be willing to agree to an alternative that might unlock Brexit negotiations.

The party said they would only accept EU laws if the Northern Ireland assembly could pick and choose - something the Ireland and the EU have repeatedly rejected in the past.

Read more: Life after no-deal Brexit: 10 scenarios listed in the Yellowhammer dossier

"We will not accept a NI only backstop... It won’t be a backstop by any other name either. We will not be accepting separate arrangements that cut us off from UK," DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told BBC Radio Ulster.

"The only different arrangements that we will accept for Northern Ireland are those where the Assembly has total scrutiny of any EU legislation, decides it's in the interests of Northern Ireland, and doesn't damage our relationship with the UK," he said.

"In those situations we will consider adopting appropriate legislation if we believe it is to the advantage of industry in Northern Ireland."

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