Tuesday 23 April 2019

Government's plan for avoiding hard border in event of no-deal Brexit 'very rough', Taoiseach admits

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with European Parliament election candidates. Picture: Patrick Browne
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with European Parliament election candidates. Picture: Patrick Browne
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

THE Government’s plan of action for avoiding a hard border in the event of a no-deal Brexit is “very rough and very preliminary”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted.

With fears of a disorderly Brexit mounting across Europe, the Taoiseach admitted there is still no way of avoiding border infrastructure without something that “looks like the backstop”.

The backstop, which will see Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU regulations in order to keep the borders open for trade, is being cited by the DUP and Tory Brexiteers as the main reason they can’t support Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal.

Speaking at Fine Gael’s National Conference in Wexford, Mr Varadkar said if the UK crashes out of the EU then “difficult discussions” will be needed with the European Commission on how to maintain an open border.

“First of all you would expect the British government to stand its commitments in the December 2017 declaration where they agreed they would maintain full regulatory alignment with the European Union if that was necessary to avoid a hard border.

“We know from the UK government’s own plans that if we did end up in a no-deal scenario that they would treat Northern Ireland separately from day one,” Mr Varadkar said.

He described the plan as no more than “a sketch” at this stage but added: “The more and more you get into it, the more and more it looks like the backstop. That’s how we ended up with the backstop in the first place.”

Asked if over promised when saying the backstop was bullet proof, Mr Varadkar replied: “The backstop being bullet proof is contingent on the Withdrawal Agreement being ratified. I’ve never made the assumption that it’ll be ratified but I do think it still can be ratified. That’s in the hands of the House of Commons.” 

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section