Bri­tain is ‘not re­motely close’ to a Brexit agree­ment, says Varad­kar

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Lisa O’Don­nell

THE Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has not come re­motely close to a legally en­force­able agree­ment on Brexit, Leo Varad­kar has said.

The Taoiseach said that an EU-UK with­drawal agree­ment might not hap­pen at all if firm agree­ment isn’t reached in the next month.

He also said that pre­vent­ing a hard border in­volves far more than just an agree­ment on cus­toms.

Ar­riv­ing at the EU Western Balkans sum­mit in the Bul­gar­ian cap­i­tal Sofia, the Taoiseach said un­less there was ‘real and sub­stan­tial progress’ by the time of the next EU sum­mit in June there would be se­ri­ous ques­tions as to whether there would be a with­drawal agree­ment at all. He said it re­mained an ‘ab­so­lute red line’ for Ire­land that there must be no hard border on the is­land and that all 27 re­main­ing EU states sup­ported the cur­rent ‘back­stop’ pro­posal, which would al­low North­ern Ire­land to have a lib­eral cus­toms ar­range­ment with the Euro­pean Union.

‘If the UK wants to put for­ward al­ter­na­tives to that – whether it’s an al­ter­na­tive text to the back­stop or whether it’s some sort of al­ter­na­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UK and the EU – we are will­ing to ex­am­ine that,’ he said.

‘But we need to see it writ­ten down in black and white, we need to know that it’s work­able and legally op­er­a­ble and we have yet to see any­thing that re­motely ap­proaches that.’

Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Theresa May, who also spoke to EU lead­ers at the sum­mit, said she will ‘shortly’ ta­ble pro­pos­als to re­solve the vexed is­sue of the Ir­ish border which is threat­en­ing to de­rail Brexit talks. At the same time she stressed the EU’s ‘back­stop’ so­lu­tion – that the North should re­main aligned with the EU if there is no Brexit deal – re­mained un­ac­cept­able to the UK.

De­scrib­ing yes­ter­day’s meet­ing with the Taoiseach as ‘very con­struc­tive’, Mrs May said they were work­ing on what the UK’s fu­ture cus­toms re­la­tion­ship with the EU would be.

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