Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar 'does not expect any breakthroughs' at Johnson meeting

Warning: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Warning: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Leo Varadkar has said he "does not expect any breakthroughs" in his meeting with Boris Johnson on Monday.

He said that the meeting is "an opportunity to establish a personal relationship".

"It's an opportunity for us to talk about each other's positions in relation to the European Union and the withdrawal agreement, to explore where there might be common ground," he said.

"Also as well to talk about Northern Ireland, because separate from the major issue of Brexit there is the ongoing suspension of the Assembly and the Executive."

It came after the Taoiseach warned that checks on goods and live animals may need to take place near the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said this will have "an immediate and profound impact on farm business".

Mr Varadkar had outlined the impacts of the UK leaving the EU without a deal during a speech to business leaders in Dublin.

He said there will be checks on goods and live animals, which would take place "as far as possible" in ports, airports and at businesses.

"But some may need to take place near the border," he added.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson said the warning came as "no surprise".

"Protecting the integrity of the single market has always been clearly stated by EU institutions and is one of their overriding principles," he said. "However, any additional checks or customs facilitations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will add time, complexity, paperwork and cost.

"These practical issues will have an immediate and profound impact on farm businesses.

"The full facts and details around a no-deal Brexit aren't yet in the public domain and essential that this is addressed as a matter of urgency to ensure that the implications and impact of a no-deal Brexit are properly understood.

"A no-deal Brexit is the worst possible outcome for Northern Ireland's farming families.

"The UFU has consistently argued that the UK must leave the EU in a managed way, with a deal."

Commenting on the warning from the Taoiseach, DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted there will be no new infrastructure at the border in Northern Ireland, even if the Irish Republic introduces border checks after Brexit.

"This proves the need to focus on getting a sensible deal which can work for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland," she said.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said border checks, or any hardening of the border, would be completely unacceptable.

"It is political vandalism which grossly undermines the Good Friday Agreement," said Ms McDonald.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Varadkar's comments "underscore the need for a backstop to prevent the re-emergence of a hard border in Ireland".

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