Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar says leaks of UK proposals to leave EU ‘not promising’

Mr Varadkar dismissed comments that the Irish border is a ‘technical issue’, saying it is deeply political and legal as well.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends to speak to Boris Johnson about his latest proposals (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends to speak to Boris Johnson about his latest proposals (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Irish Premier says from what he has seen of the UK’s proposals to leave the EU, they are “not promising”.

Leo Varadkar, speaking on Wednesday afternoon before the proposals had been published, said he had not had a chance to hear Mr Johnson’s speech at the Conservative Party conference, or look at the written proposals, and was remiss to comment until he had.

“I didn’t have a chance to hear the Prime Minister’s speech, I was in the chamber, but I’ll wait till I’ve had a chance to see the written proposals and then we’ll consult with the EU commission and our European colleagues and decide.

“What I can say is, from the leaks, it’s not promising, and does not appear to form the basis for an agreement but we’ll keep talking, however I’d want to see them in writing first.”

Mr Varadkar added that he plans to speak to Boris Johnson later on Wednesday evening, in which Mr Johnson can shed more light on the proposals the UK has tabled to leave the EU on October 31.

He also called on Mr Johnson to deal with all the parties of Northern Ireland equally.

A clear message to the Prime Minister that he should not favour the DUP, whom he once relied on for a majority and recently made an unexpected appearance at their fringe event during his own party conference, above the rest of the Stormont parties.

“I hope to speak to the Prime Minister later this evening,” he said.

“I expect him to talk me through the proposals, and for me to ask him to listen to the voice of the people of Northern Ireland.

“As Prime Minister he must act with impartiality and listen to all the parties of Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland, who voted against Brexit and do not want to see customs posts on the border.”

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Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar continued: “It will be necessary to have checks, but we believe they should be done at ports and airports, not along the 500km border. That’s our position and makes sense to us,” Mr Varadkar added.

“No-one on the island of Ireland wants checks at the border, why would any British government want to force that on Irish people, north and south?”

When it was put to Mr Varadkar that Mr Johnson had referred to the Irish border as a “technical issue”, the Irish leader disagreed.

“It’s much more than technical, it’s deeply political, legal, and the technical aspects are a small part of that.”

When asked as he was leaving if he still believes the Prime Minister wants a deal, Mr Varadkar said: “I do.”

The Prime Minister submitted a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, containing the UK’s proposals an hour after Mr Varadkar spoke to media, but before the two men had spoken on the phone.

Mr Johnson said the plan had five elements:

– A commitment to a solution compatible with the Good Friday Agreement

– Confirmation of support for long-standing areas of UK-Ireland collaboration including the Common Travel Area and north-south co-operation

– The potential creation of an all-Ireland regulatory zone covering all goods including agri-food

– The consent of those affected by that all-Ireland zone with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly given the chance to endorse the plan before it comes into effect and then every four years

– Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory and outside the EU’s customs union.

Mr Johnson claimed the plan was “entirely compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland”.

PA

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