Belfast Telegraph

I'll listen to PM's backstop alternatives: Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

By Michael McHugh

Prime Minister Boris Johnson may meet his Irish counterpart next week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he will listen to alternatives to the Irish border backstop as he disclosed details of the proposed encounter during an event yesterday.

Mr Varadkar said: "Of course, I would listen to any proposals that the British Prime Minister may have to achieve that by an alternative means and we provide for alternative arrangements in the joint political declaration.

"The difficulty is that anything we have seen so far, when it comes to alternative arrangements, do something very different.

"They just manage a border, they facilitate tariffs, they facilitate checks, they facilitate controls but try to do it in a way that is invisible and unobtrusive, and that is better than nothing but it is not the outcome that we want to achieve."

Mr Johnson has said he wants to scrap the backstop.

Mr Varadkar has been staunch in his defence of the proposal, part of a draft agreement between Theresa May's administration and the EU. The Taoiseach told RTE: "I am always willing to listen to any proposal that a British Prime Minister has. The backstop is a means to an end."

Meanwhile, a think tank praised by Boris Johnson for its work in attempting to dump the backstop has published suggestions for ensuring the UK leaves the EU with a free trade deal.

Prosperity UK's self-dubbed "alternative arrangements commission" held meetings with a top aide to Brussels Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last week and said they were now "redrafting" the Political Declaration - the document setting out the future trading relationship between the UK and the European Union - in a bid to ensure Britain can exit with a deal.

It has proposed introducing a trusted trader programme between the Republic and Northern Ireland while also using mobile units away from the border to check food safety in order to prevent a hard border.

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