Taoiseach 'very satisfied' with EU stance on Brexit backstop

Taoiseach 'very satisfied' with EU stance on Brexit backstop
Leo Varadkar arrives for an EU summit in Brussels today. Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the European Union is as one on the need for a border backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.

In Brussels for the second day of the European Council meeting, Mr Varadkar said he was “very satisfied” with the summit conclusions on Brexit which made clear the withdrawal agreement was not “up for renegotiation”.

In Brussels this morning Leo Varadkar said he was happy with the backing the EU has given Ireland, and said the Brexit backstop was not just of concern to the Irish, as fellow EU leaders saw the measure as vital to protect the integrity of the European single market.

"As Europe we reaffirmed our commitment for the need for a backstop. An open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can't be a backdoor to the single market," he said.

"That's why European countries also very strongly support backstop. It is not just an Irish issue, it is very much a European issue as well.

"It is very much a case of in the European Union being one-for-all and all-for-one."

The backstop, which will come into effect if a wider trade deal between the UK and EU fails to materialise, will see Northern Ireland adhere to a range of EU regulatory rules in order to facilitate free-flowing trade across the border.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing widespread opposition to the measure at Westminster amid claims it will undermine the integrity of the UK by creating an economic border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr Varadkar said the issue could not be deferred to the trade talks post-withdrawal.

“It’s not just an Irish issue, it’s a European issue,” he said.

“It’s about protecting the peace, keeping the border open, also protecting the single market and making sure we answer this question of the Irish border now, so no side can use it as leverage in the future relationship talks, which we are willing to start as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.”

The Taoiseach said while the EU was willing to offer “clarifications or explanations” to Mrs May, he reiterated that a renegotiation of the deal was not an option.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the reaction of the EU to Mrs May's appeals for help was "unsurprising".

She said: "They are doing what they always do. The key question is whether the Prime Minister will stand up to them or whether she will roll over as has happened previously.

This is a difficulty of the Prime Minister's own making.

"A deal was signed off which the Prime Minister should have known would not gain the support of Parliament.

"If the Prime Minister had listened to our warnings and stood by her public commitments, we would not be in this situation."

PA

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