UK’s Brexit position highlights need for ‘robust’ backstop, says Varadkar

The UK’s attempt to reopen the Brexit negotiations only reinforces the need for a “legally robust” and “workable” backstop, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar reiterated his government’s stance during a phone call with British counterpart Theresa May this afternoon.

The call between the two leaders came after the House of Commons voted to allow Mrs May to try to reopen the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and address concerns about the backstop.

Senior EU officials have insisted it cannot be rewritten, however, and the Withdrawal Agreement is the only deal possible.

Theresa May spoke to Leo Varadkar on the phone after Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons (PA)
Theresa May spoke to Leo Varadkar on the phone after Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons (PA)

In a statement following the call, the Irish government said: “The Taoiseach set out once again the unchanged Irish and EU position on the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, noting that the latest developments had reinforced the need for a backstop which is legally robust and workable in practice.”

The statement also said the leaders had agreed to stay in touch over the coming period.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Varadkar said full regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic was the only way to ensure there was no re-emergence of a hard border.

Mr Varadkar also said the UK had failed to specify any details about the alternative arrangements they wanted to replace the backstop.

“I don’t know what those alternative arrangements are,” he said.

“We’ve been down that track before and I don’t believe that such alternative arrangements exist.

“That is why we have the agreement that we have now because the only way I believe that we can avoid a hard border … is through full regulatory alignment.”

MPs voted on Tuesday night to give Mrs May the backing to seek to replace the backstop with unspecified “alternative arrangements”.

Mr Varadkar also said the EU had no plans to hold an emergency summit following the outcome of the Westminster vote.

“A renegotiation is not on the table,” he said.

“There’s no plans to organise an emergency summit to discuss any changes to the guidelines. Nor is there any pressure to hold one.”

- Press Association

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