UK’s ‘non-paper’ Brexit proposals would be evidence of bad faith – Varadkar

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar says he has not seen any of the UK’s “non-paper” proposals for exiting the EU.

His comments come after the Irish government rejected proposals for customs post being built between five and 10 miles along both sides of the border to replace the backstop.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reported that the suggestion sent to the EU by the UK would lead to the posts being built close to the border.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  Charles McQuillan/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Charles McQuillan/PA)

The leader of Ireland’s opposition party Micheal Martin asked Mr Varadkar whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the non-papers during their recent meetings in Dublin and New York.

“I’m conscious when answering your question that I am talking about non-papers that I haven’t seen,” Mr Varadkar said during leaders’ questions.

“I was aware of their existence, and it was public knowledge in the last week or two, that the UK provided non-papers to the EU taskforce on the basis of confidentiality and not to be shared with member states.

“I very much welcome Boris Johnson’s words today when he disowned the non-papers, had he not, in my view, it would be hard evidence of bad faith by the UK government.”

He said that the UK government promised no hard border or associated controls or checks, adding that he expects the British government to honour their promises made in the Withdrawal Agreement.

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(PA Graphics)

He continued: “People here don’t want a customs border between north and south and no British government should seek to impose customs posts against the will of the people on the island of Ireland.

“I’m interested in what Northern Ireland businesses have to say, in what retailers say, the UK has not been listening to businesses, the freight trade association say it contradicts all their advice to the government, Manufacturing NI rejected them out of hand.

“I would ask anyone to listen to the voices of Northern Ireland, from businesses to farmers, to people, who are saying no to customs posts, and we are saying no too.”

In relation to Mr Johnson, whom he met on a trip to America last week, Mr Varadkar said they did speak about Brexit, but not customs checks.

“He spoke on occasion about there not being checks on the border which raises the obvious question – where would they be? But we didn’t get into detail,” the Taoiseach added.

“When the government talks about checks we talk about them being a necessity in no deal, if the UK decides to leave without a deal then there will need to be checks at ports and airports and at business level, and that is in the context of no deal, we’ve never been in the position to sign up to checks.

“It is his (Boris Johnson’s) view that the UK should leave the EU whole and entire, to use his language, to leave the customs union.

“As I explained to him in New York, there is a reason we came up with the deal that we did after two years with Mrs May and what the backstop provides for is a single customs territory.

“That satisfied our demand and desire that there not be customs checks north and south, or east and west, and that’s why we came up with the backstop, why it is the best solution.

“We spent two years going up and down rabbit holes, because we needed a solution that avoided customs posts.”

Mr Martin went on to say that the Good Friday Agreement has been damaged by the collapse of institutions in Northern Ireland, adding that they will be damaged further by regulatory divergence and customs infrastructure.

Mr Martin said: “The essential message of what he (Boris Johnson) said today is he wants to keep Northern Ireland out of the Customs Union.

“We all agree in this House that Brexit makes no sense, for those who are in business or in farming, and it damages the economy all around.

“But I think it’s seems to me he is sticking to the idea that he does not want, as part of the exit deal, any provision which would ensure and guarantee that Northern Ireland would remain in the European Union Customs Union.”

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