British approach in North talks ‘will have to change’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on Britain to change its approach in the Brexit talks on the North in order to avoid the collapse of negotiations.

His comments came as Transport Minister Shane Ross said there would be some positive outcomes from Brexit including attracting more tourists and new trade routes.

Both were speaking at a special all-island Brexit dialogue conference in Dundalk.

Mr Varadkar said Britain’s approach “will have to change in some way” if the Brexit withdrawal agreement is to go ahead. The agreement must be ready by October for EU leaders to review.

However, the Government and EU negotiators insist that without a deal on a frictionless border for the North by June, the withdrawal agreement would be stopped.

“Without a solution to the border issue, there will be no agreement, let there be no doubt about that,” said Mr Varadkar. He said there needs to be real and meaningful progress by June’s EU Council meeting.

Mr Varadkar said the best solution for Ireland would be that Britain would maintain a close relationship or the status quo with the EU. This would mean it could remain in the customs union and the single market, a position which would likely not impose fresh borders or trade tariffs.

However, the Taoiseach reiterated that it was now there in black and white that, in the absence of a proposal from Britain, the so-called ‘backstop’ agreement reached with Britain in December would apply. This essentially would allow the North remain in the customs union. However, Britain claims that such a move could be akin to a “land grab”.

There are still huge questions about how the border will operate, with the EU already ruling out suggestions some type of technology for a solution or a ‘cyber border’ would be acceptable.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that the EU was united with Ireland on its desire not to see a hard border.

However, Mr Barnier also came under attack from unionists during his two-day visit to Ireland, with DUP leader Arlene Foster saying she believes Mr Barnier does not understand the issue and is “not an honest broker”.

Mr Barnier also denied unionist claims he was “aggressive” towards unionists in negotiations. He said he did not approach talks in “a spirit of revenge”.

Elsewhere, Mr Ross said Brexit also had positive aspects. Addressing an audience at the town’s DIT, he said this could include trying to attract new tourism markets to Ireland or setting up new ports and trade routes.

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