EU closes ranks with Ireland on backstop

EU closes ranks with Ireland on backstop

Additional reporting by Fiachra O’Cionnaith

The Government is ramping up its Brexit backstop campaign as it faces increasing pressure to clarify where new checks and inspections on goods will take place if the UK crashes out of the EU.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will tomorrow begin a Brexit PR blitz, meeting counterparts in five EU capitals over the coming days as the clock counts down to a disorderly no-deal.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s rejection of the backstop and withdrawal agreement came under fire today, with EU figures closing ranks with Dublin.

European Council president Donald Tusk hit back at Mr Johnson’s desire to strip the backstop out of the Brexit deal, claiming such a stance supported “re-establishing a border”.

Tensions escalated further with Downing Street later saying that unless the backstop was scrapped there was no prospect of a deal. Mr Johnson, in a letter this week, argued that the backstop was “anti-democratic” and risked under-mining the peace process. The letter was viewed by EU capitals as failing to set out alternatives to the backstop.

Ahead of a meeting between Mr Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar next month, debate around a no-deal Brexit and the October 31 deadline is rising.

Mr Coveney will tomorrow begin a tour of EU capitals where he will discuss Brexit, meet businesses and engage in interviews. The Foreign Affairs minister will start in Copenhagen, to meet his Danish counterpart, Jeppe Kofod. There he will also address ambassadors from around the world at a conference.

Next week he will visit Prague, Paris, Helsinki and Warsaw. Mr Coveney also spoke to British Brexit secretary Steve Barclay today. While the call was described as cordial, the Tánaiste “expressed concern at the lack of alternatives to the backstop in the letter from the UK government,” a statement said.

The Government is coming under pressure to outline where, when and how inspections will apply if the UK leaves without a deal. Mr Coveney in July admitted that some checks would be necessary but not at the border with the North.

EU talks over this remain under wraps. German chancellor Angela Merkel said today that the EU would think about practical solutions about a post-Brexit border but not by revisiting the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Johnson last night accused the EU of being “a bit negative” about a deal and said Britain would get there as he promised to “go at it with a lot of oomph”.

However, the Opposition and businesses are increasingly frustrated over the lack of any details with just over 70 days before a possible disorderly Brexit.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley called for immediate clarity:

“What we now want to see from the Government is more transparency with what arrangements will exist when it comes to a hard border ... we haven’t seen those details ... because businesses, farmers, the people who cross the border on a daily basis, they want to know where those checks will be.”

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