Monday 26 August 2019

'New prime minister will get a fair hearing - but EU won't reopen deal'

Talks in the offing: UK Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington at a press conference at the British-Irish Council (BIC) summit in Manchester. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Talks in the offing: UK Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington at a press conference at the British-Irish Council (BIC) summit in Manchester. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the new UK prime minister would get a "fair hearing" from the Irish Government and the European Union, but insisted there would be no reopening of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland had done economic assessments on the impact of a no-deal Brexit and prepared contingencies.

But "nobody is really going to know for sure what the extent of harm will be" if the UK crashes out on October 31.

At the end of a British-Irish Council (BIC) meeting in Manchester yesterday, Mr Varadkar declined to be drawn on the ongoing Conservative leadership race between frontrunner Boris Johnson and UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but said he looked forward to meeting either of them next month.

"Certainly, anything that a British prime minister has to say in relation to resolving the Brexit impasse will get a fair hearing from me and from everyone in the European Union," Mr Varadkar said.

"At the same time, it needs to be understood that we also mean what we say: the Withdrawal Agreement won't be reopened.

"Without a backstop, there will be no transition period or implementation phase but we are willing to examine the joint political declaration and make amendments to that, that enables to proceed an orderly Brexit, a guarantee there will be no Border between North and south which is our shared objective."

He said Ireland and the EU had "always been open clarifications" on the Brexit deal, but added: "We can't have something that contradicts the letter or spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement."

Also speaking at the end of the BIC meeting, UK Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington said a no-deal Brexit would be harmful not only for the UK economy but for its constitutional integrity. He said both candidates to succeed Theresa May wanted a deal.

"I think there will be a moment, a window, after the prime minister takes office where other leaders around the European Union will want to hear what the new prime minister has in mind, what they want to say, to have a serious discussions with him," he said.

Mr Lidington said he took the EU at its word when it said that the Withdrawal Agreement was not going to be reopened.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was very concerned about 'no deal', but she still believed Brexit could be stopped.

Irish Independent

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