Taoiseach warns troops may return to border if UK crashes out of EU

Taoiseach warns troops may return to border if UK crashes out of EU

The Taoiseach has put it up to the UK to make concessions on a Brexit deal claiming Ireland will not be victimised for something we did not choose.

Speaking in Davos, Leo Varadkar also warned that if Britain crashes out of the EU in March without a deal in place we could see a return to troops and checkpoints along the border with Northern Ireland.

His comments, which were a marked change in messaging and sparked criticism from politicians on both side of the border, were made ahead of another Brexit key vote in the UK's House of Commons next Tuesday.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the DUP and other political parties hit out at Mr Varadkar claiming his remarks which warned of a return to a police or army presence on the border were "reckless and irresponsible".

Asked if there was room for negotiation on the withdrawal agreement which was rejected by MPs in the House of Commons, Mr Varadkar said the EU has "always been open for compromise" and if the UK was to change its red lines "of course our position could evolve".

"Ultimately it's the people who caused all of this and started this who have to come up with solutions," he told Bloomberg.

"We shouldn't forget the basic principles here, this is a problem caused by Britain, we came up with a solution which is the deal that is on the table, their parliament rejected it, shouldn't they be offering us something, why are we the ones constantly being asked to solve the problem they created?

"What are they offering us?"

Pressed on this Mr Varadkar said the UK is offering us "nothing at the moment".

"Why is it the country that is being victimised that is always the one that has to give?" the Taoiseach asked.

Mr Varadkar said the main objective of Ireland and the EU is to avoid a hard border and stressed that the backstop is the means by which this can be achieved.

"We are not going to give up a mechanism that we know will work, that is legally binding," he said.

But he said that if the UK can come forward with another mechanism to avoid custom checks along the border with Northern Ireland "then, of course, we would listen to that, but unfortunately, that's not what I am getting".

"We are not going to give up a mechanism that we know will work, that is legally binding?"

Asked about possible technologies that could be used to carry out checks but at the same time avoid a hard border, Mr Varadkar said: "They don't exist and nobody has been able to show them to me.

"I think we have given a lot already, let's not forget that this is a decision that Britain has made it's a decision that potentially will have great harm for other countries and yet we are the ones who are already giving."

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney urged firms to brace for a hard Brexit, saying there will be “huge strain on the economy” if no deal is agreed between the EU and the UK.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said food and drink firms were particularly vulnerable to the fallout of a no-deal Brexit, but added that he did not believe there would be shortages of supplies if such a scenario played out.

Mr Coveney said he remained confident that a deal could be reached and that a hard Brexit would not come to pass.

“I have always said that a no-deal Brexit will put an enormous strain on the Irish economy...in a no-deal Brexit scenario, if we have to trade with the UK on the basis of WTO rules including tariffs, that will put a strain on many sectors.

“If it impacts on the value of sterling, that puts pressure on the very significant trade between these two islands, there is no question about that. I don’t think there are going to be shortages but certainly there will be cost implications for that trade,” Mr Coveney said.

He added that people should be "under no illusion" that a no-deal Brexit would cause huge strain on the Irish economy.

"Clearly the food industry would be impacted by the imposition of significant tariffs that would come with WTO rules," the Tánaiste said.

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