Fresh attempts to reopen backstop agreement shot down by Varadkar

Fresh attempts by British prime minister Theresa May to reopen the backstop agreement have been shot down by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ahead of an expected show of solidarity from the EU this week.

While open to listening to Ms May's proposals over the Brexit standoff, Mr Varadkar again struck down claims technology was a solution, warning that this would still create a hard border.

Support for Ireland's refusal to renegotiate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop clause preventing a border in the North will be stepped up this week.

European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee will tomorrow accompany Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok to the border region near Dundalk, Louth. This follows a similar visit here by the German justice minister Katarina Barley last week.

Mr Varadkar will also discuss renewed support for Ireland position by members states with European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels on Wednesday as well as preparations for a no-deal scenario with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Other meetings could take place with EU figures.

While support is strong for Dublin's determination to hold the line on the backstop insurance policy to prevent a hard border, there is now growing talk in government circles about how and when Brexit can be delayed.

Mr Varadkar reiterated that Britain could remove the spectre of Britain crashing out of the union.

“They can take a no deal off table when they want,” he told RTE's This Week in an extensive interview.

British Foreign Affairs Minister Jeremy Hunt had hinted last Thursday, in addition to confirming there would alternative proposals for the Irish border in the days ahead, that an extension to the Brexit process beyond March 29 might be required.

Ms May is expected to seek alternatives from the EU this week, following a vote by MPs in Westminster last week to renegotiate terms around the backstop.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she said would be "battling for Britain" when she returns to Brussels to seek a "pragmatic" Brexit deal. She still insisted there would be no new hard border.

Ms May is due to report back to the House of Commons on her negotiations with the EU on February 13, with a further series of votes by MPs expected the following day.

Nonetheless, Mr Varadkar has insisted Ireland - and the EU - would not countenance any reopening of the existing divorce deal for Britain.

“Of course we will listen to the prime minister and the suggestions she will put forward, but my concern is when they talk about alternative arrangements, they are talking about revisiting things that have already been rejected and that is not going to work," he said.

British home secretary Sajid Javid suggested that a technological solution could do away with the Irish backstop with “a bit of goodwill from Europe”. Such plans were being worked on, Mr Javid said.

But Mr Varadkar immediately shot down any fresh talk of technology preventing a hard border, an option previously rejected by the EU during the original Brexit talks.

It is very frustrating that we are going back to this idea about technology.

The European Commission and the Brexit taskforce had examined all this, he said, including looking at such systems in Norway and Sweden as well as on the border between the US and Canada.

“Yes, there is lots of technology, but it is a hard border,” he said.

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