Varadkar tells Johnson 'significant gaps remain' between governments over Brexit resolution

Varadkar tells Johnson 'significant gaps remain' between governments over Brexit resolution

  • Main points
  • Boris rules out border checks
  • Direct rule in NI “contrary to the St Andrews agreement”
  • Mr Johnson says he wants to restore the Stormont Assembly
  • Leo: "No backstop is no deal for us."

“Significant gaps remain” between the Irish and British governments as to how Brexit can be resolved.

That was the view of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after they concluded their first face-to-face meeting at Government Buildings.

The two men said the meeting, half an hour just by themselves and half an hour with their respective teams was “positive and constructive”.

But it is clear little real progress was made when the statement said: “This was an essential and timely opportunity for the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister to establish a relationship and a better understanding of each other’s positions.”

Mr Varadkar warned Mr Johnson that can be “no clean break” when it comes to Brexit, whenever it occurs.

Mr Varadkar made clear that a no-deal Brexit has profound consequences for Ireland and stated that the Irish Government is open to backstop alternatives but "we haven't received such proposals to date".

Pressed by reporters about what alternatives he has, Mr Johnson replied there is an abundance of them but he was not in a position to share them today.

But he did say:

I can tell you Leo, I want a deal.

Mr Varadkar said: “We both agree we have much to discuss, we accept the democratic and sovereign decisions to leave the EU.

However, in my view, the story of Brexit won’t end if the UK leaves the EU on October 31 or January 31. There is no such thing as a clean break.

A “no-deal [Brexit] will cause much disruption to Ireland," Mr Varadkar added. “All issues which we have resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by 28 governments. We'll have to deal with issues like tariffs and state aid, ratified by 28 governments.”

Mr Varadkar added that organising trade deals with the US and other governments would be a “Herculean task” but that Ireland stands ready to be its “Athena” - a reference to the Greek goddess who stopped Hercules from going on a killing spree after he had gone mad and killed his wife and children, and then aided him in his labours to redeem his name.

Varadkar tells Johnson 'significant gaps remain' between governments over Brexit resolution

Mr Johnson said he was bringing ideas on ways to resolve the Irish border backstop, but little detail of any new deal emerged.

He made clear that he wants a deal to avoid a crash-out scenario, but insisted Britain will leave on October 31.

Twice Mr Johnson was asked about being to the border while being either Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister, and both times he failed to answer the question.

He made clear that he wants a deal to avoid a crash-out scenario, but insisted Britain will leave on October 31.

Twice Mr Johnson was asked about being to the border while being either Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister, and both times he failed to answer the question.

He did say: “I’ve seen the old border and how absolutely vital it is we keep the open border, on the plan, it’s fairly obvious, we need to find a way of ensuring that the UK is not kept locked in backstop arrangement while giving Ireland the assurance that it needs,” he said.

Whether it’s electronic pre-clearance or concept of the unity of island for agri-foods, and other ideas we’ll bring forward to address the full range.

“I don’t underestimate the technical problems but I do think there is a way through.”

“I’ve seen the old border and how absolutely vital it is we keep the open border, on the plan, it’s fairly obvious, we need to find a way of ensuring that the UK is not kept locked in backstop arrangement while giving Ireland the assurance that it needs,” he said.

“Whether it’s electronic pre-clearance or concept of the unity of island for agri-foods, and other ideas we’ll bring forward to address the full range.

Varadkar tells Johnson 'significant gaps remain' between governments over Brexit resolution

“I don’t underestimate the technical problems but I do think there is a way through.”

Mr Varadkar said:

“In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us."

Mr Varadkar also said that direct rule in Northern Ireland would be: “Contrary to the St Andrews agreement” and “we want to see east-west institutions used to full effect to give us an opportunity to have a consultative role in any big decision in Northern Ireland.”

On Mr Johnson’s comments that he would rather be found “dead in a ditch” than seek an extension, Mr Varadkar said he did not feel the same.

He added: “It’s important we remember that this is not about politicians, it’s about protecting people’s jobs, business and peace and security – and if an extension is required to do that, well I think any politician should be prepared to do that.”

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