Belfast Telegraph

Ireland and Germany will ‘stand by’ Brexit Withdrawal Agreement

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was the UK’s responsibility to propose a solution.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The Irish and German leaders have pledged to “stand by” the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland will not accept any change to the deal that renders the backstop inoperable.

Mr Varadkar also said the threat of a no-deal scenario was not of Ireland or the EU’s making, and that he was looking to the UK to propose a viable solution.

“It is up to them to make a proposal but it has to be a proposal that we can accept,” he said.

“It can’t be a proposal that contradicts what’s already in the Withdrawal Agreement.

“It can’t be something that renders the backstop inoperable.”

Mr Varadkar made the comments in Dublin on Thursday following the Government’s first Cabinet meeting of 2019.

Ministers met to discuss no-deal contingency preparations in detail following the publication of the Government’s action plan last month.

It comes as the UK’s former Brexit secretary David Davis urged Prime Minister Theresa May to delay the “meaningful vote” on the deal for a second time.

Speaking at Government Buildings Mr Varadkar said he had spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Thursday morning at her request.

We're happy to offer reassurances and guarantees to the UK, but not reassurances and guarantees that contradict or change what was agreed back in November Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The conversation, which lasted about 40 minutes, focused on securing the ratification of the deal, which is expected to be put to a vote in the House of Commons later this month.

Mr Varadkar said both leaders had decided to “stand by” the agreement.

“We’re happy to offer reassurances and guarantees to the UK, but not reassurances and guarantees that contradict or change what was agreed back in November,” he said.

The Taoiseach said the Irish Government would be continuing with its contingency planning in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

About 45 pieces of legislation will need to be approved if a deal is not reached.

But he said that he would not be bringing any such legislation to parliament before March as he did not want to “tie up” parliamentary proceedings with legislation that may not be needed.

In its action plan in the event of a no-deal scenario, the Government warned that if an agreement is not reached it would have “severe macroeconomic, trade and sectoral impacts” on the country.

The more than 130-page document aims to minimise any potential risk of disruption from additional checks. It includes the recruitment of 600 customs officer posts, as well as extra staff for the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Agriculture.

Mr Varadkar added that he had “given up speculating” on the potential outcome of Brexit.

“The threat of a no-deal isn’t one that Ireland is making, isn’t one that the European Union is making,” he said.

“The threat of no deal can be taken off the table at any time by the UK Parliament either by ratifying the agreement that the 28 governments have made or by seeking the extension to Article 50 to allow more time for us to negotiate what needs to be negotiated.”

PA

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