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Leo Varadkar 'open to review' of Brexit backstop for border in Ireland but dismisses time-limited proposal

By Mark Edwards

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Prime Minister Theresa May he is open to the possibility of a review mechanism for the Brexit backstop.

Following a phone conversation with Mrs May on Monday morning, the Taoiseach said both leaders emphasised their commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland and the need for a legally operable backstop.

A statement released by the Department of Taoiseach said: "The Prime Minister raised the possibility of a review mechanism for the backstop.

"The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop.

"He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply 'unless and until' alternative arrangements are agreed.

"They both expressed the hope that the negotiations could conclude in a satisfactory manner as soon as possible."

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister and the Taoiseach agreed that the intention is that the backstop should only be temporary and that the best solution to the Northern Ireland border would be found by agreeing a future relationship between the UK and the EU.

"In order to ensure that the backstop, if ever needed, would be temporary, the Prime Minister said that there would need to be a mechanism through which the backstop could be brought to an end," the spokesman added.

"She affirmed the UK's commitment to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."

The statements come after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU's proposed Irish backstop after just three months.

Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said that a time-limited backstop will never be agreed to by Ireland or the EU.

The EU's position to avoid a hard border has been for Northern Ireland to remain within the customs union.

However, the DUP is strongly opposed to this, saying it will not allow Northern Ireland's position within the UK to be compromised.

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