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Boris Johnson tells Leo Varadkar the backstop must go in first call

Boris Johnson speaks at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London after being announced as the new Conservative party leader and next Prime Minister. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 23, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Boris Johnson speaks at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London after being announced as the new Conservative party leader and next Prime Minister. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 23, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Leo Varadkar "the backstop must go", during their first conversation on Tuesday.

The Taoiseach, however, reiterated the EU's stance that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened.

In a phone conversation, both leaders expressed their determination to see the Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland restored as soon as possible, according to a Government spokesperson.

The Prime Minister is said to have expressed his unequivocal support for the ongoing talks process and said he wanted to continue to work closely with the Irish government to help drive the process towards a successful conclusion.

He said he looked forward to visiting Northern Ireland shortly and talking to the leaders of the five main parties about this.

On Monday, Boris Johnson was criticised by Sinn Fein for his failure to contact Leo Varadkar since becoming Prime Minister. 

In recent times incoming UK prime ministers have placed a call with their Irish counterpart on the first day of assuming office.

In a phone call on Tuesday, the Prime Minister told the Taoiseach that the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, "no matter what" - but said that the Government will be steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement.

He said the government will never put physical checks or physical infrastructure on the border. 

A spokesperson said that Mr Johnson told Mr Varadkar that his government will approach any negotiations which take place with determination and energy and in a spirit of friendship, and that his clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal.

However, he also said it must be one that abolishes the backstop.

Boris Johnson took up his new role as Prime Minister on Wednesday July 24.

The Department of the Taoiseach has released a statement on the phone call with Mr Varadkar, in which they said he reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement "could not be reopened" and that the backstop was necessary.

"Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, as envisaged in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated," said the statement.

"He recalled that the Agreement requires the sovereign government to exercise power with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in full respect for their rights, equality, parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities."

The new UK Prime Minister has been invited to Dublin for further discussions.

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