If there is a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit it will be the fault of the UK, not the EU, the Irish premier has said.
Leo Varadkar, speaking in New York on Monday at the UN Climate Action Summit, responded to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s comments that border checks will be an inevitable consequence of a no-deal Brexit.
“It is the case that in the event of no-deal, checks will be necessary, and we’ve been saying that for months now,” Mr Varadkar said.
“Checks in ports, airports, at business level, near the border, and if that happens, it will happen as a consequence of the UK leaving without a deal.
“It won’t be a decision we made and certainly won’t be something we sign up to or agree to in any way.”
When asked how he will prepare Irish businesses, including farmers and agricultural enterprises, which are set to be hit the hardest by a no-deal Brexit, Mr Varadkar says once arrangements have been decided, he will inform the country.
Caught up with Mary Robinson briefly at the start of the UN Climate Action Summit in NYC. Iâll be outlining Irelandâs response to climate action to the General Assembly, including that we will ringfence new revenues raised from carbon tax for climate action & just transition. pic.twitter.com/0LQJlLjWaR— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) September 23, 2019
“I think businesses and farmers know a lot already, they know what’s going to happen with customs, declarations and tariffs rates that come along with a no-deal.
“In relation to any arrangements near the border, I understand businesses and farmers will want to know, but that’s not agreed yet, once we know we’ll inform people, we’ll give them time to prepare.”
When asked about reports that British diplomats had been briefing that Ireland would falter on their position on the backstop the closer negotiations came to October 31, the date set for the UK to leave the EU, Mr Varadkar said he did not know if that was true.
“There is one thing I do know about Brexit from the last two or three years, is that there are some people in Britain, perhaps not in government, but some people who took the view that France and Germany and the bigger countries would gang up on Ireland, and that’s never happened.
“There are also some people that believe at the last minute that Ireland will somehow fold or give up our position, and that’s not going to happen,” he said.
“The position that we’ve had all along is that we’re willing to examine alternative arrangements that achieve the same objectives as the backstop, that we agreed to.
“No hard border, North/South co-operation, protecting the all-island economy, and if the UK can come up with alternative arrangements that meet those objectives that are legally binding, we’re willing to accept that and examine those.
“So far anything they’ve come up with falls very far short of that, and we will work to that last moment to avoid no-deal but not at any cost.”
A spokesman for the Taoiseach said that while at the summit, he met European Council President Donald Tusk for about 45 minutes to take stock of the latest situation regarding Brexit, where both agreed that they want a deal.
“The Taoiseach and president Tusk agreed that the EU side has not seen proposals from the UK that achieve the objectives of the backstop,” he said.
“They also agreed that time is very short if there is to be a positive outcome at the Europe Council.”