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Brexit border backstop agreement can have no expiry, warns Ireland premier Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned any backstop agreement on the future of the border on the island of Ireland between the EU and UK can have no expiry date.

He made the comments during a visit of the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to Dublin on Thursday.

It comes with growing pressure on the United Kingdom to clarify post-Brexit arrangements on how to deal with the 300-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Following a meeting between Mr Juncker, Taoiseach Varadkar said the European side in the Brexit negotiations had made it clear "on many occasions" the withdrawal agreement "must include a legally binding backstop so there cannot be a hard border on the island of Ireland in the future whatever circumstances may prevail".

"And a backstop cannot have an expiry date."

"So let me be blunt, there is not much time left if we are to conclude an agreement and to have it operational by the time the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next March," he added.

In December, the backstop - which guarantees Northern Ireland would maintain full alignment with the EU's customs union and single market if alternative arrangements are not reached - was included in the UK's agreement which allowed it to progress to the next stage of its negotiations with the EU.

Earlier this month the UK government published proposals for a backstop to be put in place until 2021, with the government paper saying the expectation was a permanent arrangement would be reached by this date.

The meeting in Dublin takes place ahead of a crunch European Council meeting of leaders in Brussels later this month.

Mr Juncker started his visit with a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney at Government Buildings. He will later receive an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland and attend an official dinner hosted by Mr Varadkar in Dublin Castle.

Later on Thursday morning he will address a joint sitting of both houses of the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas.

On Friday, he will meet Irish President Michael D Higgins and visit the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Croke Park, and the GAA museum.

He will also watch a demonstration of Gaelic football and hurling.

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