BREXIT PANIC: Varadkar seeks HELP from EU as Ireland INTENSIFIES no deal preparations

Daily Express :: Politics Feed
BREXIT PANIC: Varadkar seeks HELP from EU as Ireland INTENSIFIES no deal preparations
Fri, 01 Feb 2019 18:36:00 +0000

The Irish Taoiseach will meet with European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk for crisis talks to discuss “intensifying” preparations for no deal. Mr Varadkar is to outline the support he may need to mitigate the impact of a hard Brexit after Dublin this week revealed no deal could knock 4.25 percent from Ireland’s GDP. Contingency work for no deal "is intensifying both within the European Commission and across the member states", according to the Irish government.

He will also use the opportunity to thank the EU institutions, and other member states, for their "continuing support" for Ireland, the Taoiseach’s office said.

Mr Varadkar’s visit to the Belgian capital comes as Mrs May also prepares to make the trip in a last-ditch bid to secure further concessions on the contentious Irish border backstop element of her deal.

Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up the Prime Minister’s minority Government, today warned the EU it must “face up to reality” and revise the “toxic backstop”.

The backstop arrangement is designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic if a future trade deal or technology does not present an alternative solution.

But its inclusion in Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement - the legally binding element of her Brexit deal - has been a major sticking point in getting the deal through the Commons.

It is opposed by the DUP who fear it would lead to Northern Ireland being cut off from the rest of the UK buy a customs border in the Irish Sea.

In a speech to members of her party in Kesh, County Fermanagh today, Mrs Foster warned the EU are "tough negotiators" but they must now take a “pragmatic approach” to avoid no deal.

She said: “It was a massive step forward for the Party to see a majority in Parliament also calling for such changes.

“A clear message was sent to Brussels that the backstop is the problem.

"For weeks, Brussels called for a clear ask from the United Kingdom - they now have it.”

She added it was “quite disgraceful” to “exploit genuine fears” in Ireland that there could be a return to armed border posts along the politically sensitive frontier if a deal is not reached.

She said: "No one is building border checkpoints. No one is sending troops to the border either. Such talk is foolish and careless."

Mr Varadkar last week raised the prospect of soldiers being deployed to the border if Brexit goes “very wrong”.

Asked to describe what the frontier could look like in a worst-case scenario, he said a hard border could “involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up”.

However the Irish government quickly rowed back on the remarks and insisted Dublin had no plans to deploy troops to the border.

Barring an extension of Article 50, the process by which the UK leaves the EU, Britain is scheduled to quit the bloc on March 29, regardless of whether or not a deal is secured.

Both Mrs May and EU leaders have insisted they will work to avoid a deal at all costs, but Brussels has already rejected MPs’ demands to renegotiate the backstop.

Speaking this week, Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker said the Brexit deal remains the “best and only deal possible”.

He dismissed hopes of a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism on the backstop, arguing that it would not be a “safety net” if it “can just be removed at any time”.

Mr Varadkar reiterated his government's stance on no deal during a phone call with Mrs May on Wednesday afternoon.

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."

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