Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar warns 'very difficult' to avoid hard border if no Brexit deal

Confident: Leo Varadkar
Confident: Leo Varadkar

By Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted it would be "very difficult" to avoid a hard border if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Mr Varadkar also warned about trying to unpick the draft withdrawal agreement, saying it could unravel.

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a potential no confidence vote over the proposed Brexit deal. She faces an angry backlash from Eurosceptic Tory MPs and the DUP, who prop up her Government.

Yesterday Mr Varadkar continued to express hope that the deal will be passed, but said he appreciates that Mrs May will have "quite the battle" to get the deal through Parliament.

The Irish government has consistently said it will not accept a hard border. But Mr Varadkar conceded that in a no-deal scenario "it would be very difficult to avoid a hard border".

He said Ireland would "no doubt" be asked to implement EU laws to protect the Single Market and Britain would have to implement World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

He said: "The only way we can avoid a hard border is by an agreement that covers customs and regulations. We have that now."

Mr Varadkar said he doesn't see much room for renegotiating the current deal, warning that doing so could see it "unravel".

He suggested that "as reality kicks in" and the "precipice approaches" there may be more MPs willing to support the deal as "the best possible outcome that can be achieved".

The Taoiseach said Ireland is continuing to make preparations for a no-deal Brexit, saying "We have to be prudent" while insisting he's "much more confident now that worst case scenario won't arise".

He added: "The truth is no country can be fully prepared for a no-deal Brexit. It would be an extremely chaotic situation...and we might find ourselves after a few weeks of chaos signing up to an agreement much like the one we have now."

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said that there are no contingency plans being prepared for a hard border, whether there is a deal or not.

He said that the way to avoid a hard border is to support the deal that has been agreed by the EU and the UK.

Mr Coveney warned that coming to a solution that would maintain the soft border if the UK crashes out "won't be easy".

But he refused to be drawn on how a hard border could be avoided, adding: "In the absence of that deal being would be difficult to put an alternative to that that prevents a hard border, but we will do that if necessary."

Speaking to reporters at the start of Fine Gael's Ard Fheis, he said: "We've been very clear that there is no eventuality where Ireland would prepare for border infrastructure."

Mr Coveney pointed out that UK ministers including Karen Bradley have said that "deal or no deal, we will avoid border infrastructure".

Belfast Telegraph


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