Wa­tered down deal on bor­der

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By John Lee john.lee@mailon­sun­day.ie

Gov­ern­ment braced for po­lit­i­cal at­tack as cast-iron back­stop guar­an­tee is re­duced to ‘one glo­ri­ous fudge’ ‘It will be a po­lit­i­cal face-sav­ing ex­er­cise’

COM­PRO­MISES on the bor­der back­stop in the im­mi­nent Brexit deal will spark a ‘po­lit­i­cal at­tack’ on Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar, se­nior Gov­ern­ment sources con­firmed.

As Mr Varad­kar freely dis­cussed the po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges fac­ing Bri­tish PM Theresa May and DUP leader Ar­lene Fos­ter this week­end, the Gov­ern­ment braced it­self for a po­lit­i­cal back­lash fo­cused on the Taoiseach.

Mr Varad­kar will be forced to ad­mit that his ‘bulletproof’ bor­der back­stop is no such thing – and will be sub­ject to re­view within three years.

A source told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day: ‘There is go­ing to be a deal and she’s go­ing to throw the DUP un­der the bus.’

He added: ‘It’ll be a back­stop but not 100%. It will be an 80% back­stop.’

It is be­lieved Ms May told the EU ne­go­tia­tors that she will try and push a deal through be­fore Christ­mas.

Sources in Dublin and Brus­sels told the Mail that the UK and EU have agreed to have a re­view of the back­stop three years af­ter strik­ing a deal.

A source said: ‘There will be an at­tack on Varad­kar for al­low­ing this re­view clause. There will be a re­view to the back­stop that will have an EU/ UK com­po­nent. The out­come to the re­view won’t be uni­lat­eral to one side or that other, it will be sim­ply kicked on. Be­ing frank about it, it will be one glo­ri­ous fudge on ev­ery­thing.’

Even then, there will have to be ‘tech­ni­cal checks’ on Bri­tish goods pass­ing through Ire­land and on to North­ern Ire­land. Sources in Brus­sels, Lon­don and Dublin said the Gov­ern­ment is will­ing to ac­cept an ‘80%’ back­stop’.

This would be some way short of the back­stop guar­an­tee that there would be no hard bor­der, which Mr Varad­kar last year said was ‘bulletproof’.

Mr Varad­kar and For­eign Min­is­ter Si­mon Coveney an­nounced last De­cem­ber that they had se­cured a cast-iron guar­an­tee that there would be no hard bor­der af­ter Brexit, deal or no deal.

How­ever, as re­vealed in the MoS, last month, any back­stop on the bor­der will be time lim­ited. It is un­der­stood Brus­sels and Lon­don have agreed that it should be re­viewed three years af­ter March 2019.

The ‘tech­ni­cal checks’ on Bri­tish goods trav­el­ling through Ire­land to North­ern Ire­land will be op­posed by the DUP, as it would rep­re­sent a dif­fer­ent cus­toms ar­range­ment be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Bri­tain.

A Gov­ern­ment fig­ure in­volved in the high-level talks said last night that ‘a wa­tered down’ back­stop for North­ern Ire­land is go­ing to ‘open Leo to at­tacks from all sides’ and he will be ‘dam­aged’.

Diplo­matic fig­ures con­firmed that a deal will be struck in early De­cem­ber.

‘Ev­ery­one will get some­thing from it. It won’t be a vin­di­ca­tion or 100%. It will be a po­lit­i­cal face-sav­ing ex­er­cise.

‘Ms May be­lieves she can get it through with­out the DUP, with de­fec­tions from Labour. But of course it’s nowhere near cer­tain. Ev­ery­thing she does is a gam­ble. It is pretty tight one way or an­other.

‘If it’s done in the first week of De­cem­ber they could get it done by Christ­mas week. They need three weeks ap­par­ently,

‘The ab­so­lute pri­or­ity is for her to get it through the UK par­lia­ment by Christ­mas week,’ the source said.

cri­sis: How the MoS broke sto­ries last month on Mrs May’s plans to deal with the bor­der prob­lem

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