Tuesday 17 July 2018

Varadkar slams UK for not 'standing by its commitments' on border

Leo Varadkar Photo: PA
Leo Varadkar Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has questioned why any country would do a trade deal with the United Kingdom if they renege on promises made during the Brexit negotiations.

In a clear sign of the growing frustration over a lack of progress on the Irish border, Mr Varadkar said Theresa May needs to honour the so-called ‘backstop’ agreed last March.

It would see Northern Ireland maintain regulations that are closely aligned with the EU in order to avoid a physical border on the island after Brexit.

But Brexit negotiations ended yesterday ahead of a summit of EU leaders next week with “serious divergences” relating to the Irish border.

EU chief Michel Barnier said “a lot more work” needs to be done to find a workable way of keeping the border open once Northern Ireland leaves the EU.

However, it is understood there are no plans for further talks before EU leaders gather to decide the next steps in Brussels on June 28.

Speaking today the Taoiseach said he will ask other European leaders “to continue to stand behind Ireland”.

“What I want all of Europe to do is stand behind Ireland and say to the UK that they have to honour the commitments they made.

“The UK is a country that is talking about going global, talking about making trade deals all over the world. How could anyone deal with a country that doesn’t stand by its commitments,” Mr Varadkar said.

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Stock image (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Barnier and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker are due in Dublin tomorrow in what will be interpreted as a show of strength at a key moment in the negotiations.

The Taoiseach indicated he will tell them that Ireland hasn’t seen “sufficient progress from the UK in the last couple of months”.

“We had a good political agreement in December. We had more progress in March where they accepted there had to be a backstop as part of the Withdrawal Agreement. But since then progress has stalled,” he said today.

In a joint statement issued last night, the EU and UK said progress has been made in a number of areas, including customs, VAT and nuclear waste regulation.

But Mr Barnier warned the UK that there will be no final withdrawal agreement in October without a deal on Ireland.

Irish government sources expressed massive frustration at the development last night saying there had been “weeks of nonsense from some people on the British side who should know better”.

“We have seen swings, roundabouts and buffer zones from Westminster and then finally a customs paper that arrived far too late in the day and provoked far more questions than answers.

“The only assessment can be that the British have not done what they have said they would do by June and not yet delivered on the guarantees of the Prime Minister,” a senior source told the Irish Independent.

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