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