Varadkar: New Brexit plan does not meet fully backstop objectives

The Irish premier has said the UK’s latest Brexit proposals did not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop.

Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the proposed plans in a phone call on Wednesday evening.

Afterwards, a statement from the Irish Government said the Taoiseach would study the proposals further and consult with other EU leaders.

“The Taoiseach said the proposals do not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop,” the statement said.

“However, he indicated that he would study them in further detail, and would consult with the EU institutions, including the Task Force and our EU partners.

“The Taoiseach expects to speak with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and with other EU heads of government over the coming days.

“This will include the Swedish and Danish prime ministers, with whom the Taoiseach has bilateral meetings on Thursday and Friday in their capitals.

“The Taoiseach said he wants to see a deal agreed and ratified, and will continue to work in unity with our EU partners to this end.

“The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister agreed they would speak again next week.”

Shortly before the new Brexit proposals were released on Wednesday, the Taoiseach called for Mr Johnson to deal with all the parties of Northern Ireland equally.

He urged the Prime Minister not to favour the DUP, whom the Tories once relied on for a majority under a confidence and supply deal, above the rest of the Stormont parties.

“As Prime Minister he must act with impartiality and listen to all the parties of Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland, who voted against Brexit and do not want to see customs posts on the border, “ Mr Varadkar said.

“It will be necessary to have checks, but we believe they should be done at ports and airports, not along the 500km border. That’s our position and makes sense to us.

“No-one on the island of Ireland wants checks at the border, why would any British government want to force that on Irish people, north and south?”

Irish border plan
(PA Graphics)

When it was put to Mr Varadkar that Mr Johnson had referred to the Irish border as a “technical issue”, the Irish leader disagreed.

“It’s much more than technical, it’s deeply political, legal, and the technical aspects are a small part of that.”

When asked if he still believes Mr Johnson wants a Brexit deal, Mr Varadkar said: “I do.”

The Prime Minister submitted a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday afternoon containing the UK’s proposals.

Mr Johnson said the plan had five elements:

– A commitment to a solution compatible with the Good Friday Agreement;

– Confirmation of support for long-standing areas of UK-Ireland collaboration including the Common Travel Area and north-south co-operation;

– The potential creation of an all-Ireland regulatory zone covering all goods including agri-food;

– The consent of those affected by that all-Ireland zone with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly given the chance to endorse the plan before it comes into effect and then every four years;

– Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory and outside the EU’s customs union.

Mr Johnson claimed the plan was “entirely compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland”.

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