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Boris Johnson should visit the Irish border to witness it first-hand: Varadkar

By Philip Ryan and Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it would be "helpful" for leading Brexiteers like Boris Johnson to visit the Irish border to see for themselves how it is currently "invisible".

It comes as UK Chancellor Philip Hammond restated the UK Government's commitment to avoiding a hard border and admitted that there's no model anywhere in the world for the kind of post-Brexit arrangements Britain is seeking.

Remarks by Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson comparing the 300-mile long Irish border to the congestion charge boundaries in London were met with derision in recent weeks.

The Government wants to leave the customs union and has rejected a so-called 'backstop' option put forward by the EU which would see Northern Ireland remain in the customs union if a comprehensive deal can't be agreed with the UK.

During the first day of his trip to the US, Mr Varadkar said Mr Johnson and UK Brexit Minister David Davis would be "very welcome to visit the border" and that such a trip could prove "helpful".

He said Northern Secretary Karen Bradley has already done so, as have a number of MPs and members of the House of Lords.

"I can't see anything negative in a British Cabinet minister viewing the border, seeing what it looks like," he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish Government has good engagements with the British Cabinet and has explained how the Brexit issues are unique to Ireland but, as "in any walk of life... sometimes you need to see things with your own eyes".

Last week Mr Varadkar rejected a suggestion by Prime Minister Theresa May that the customs arrangements between the US and Canada was among possible models for the future arrangement in Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said when he visited the US-Canada border he saw "a hard border... with customs posts, people in uniforms with arms and dogs. That is definitely not a solution that we can entertain".

ITV presenter Robert Peston put it to Mr Hammond yesterday that there's "no model for the kind of border you want anywhere in the world".

Mr Hammond replied: "No there isn't and that's why no existing off-the-shelf model is going to deliver what we need to deliver here."

He reiterated the Government's commitment that there will be no border infrastructure in Ireland and claimed this could be done even if Britain does not remain in some form of customs union arrangement with the EU.

Irish Independent

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