Varad­kar: Back­stop deal on bor­der must be agreed

Irish Examiner - - News - Juno McEn­roe

The back­stop deal to guar­an­tee a fric­tion­less bor­der must be for­mally ap­proved be­fore an agree­ment can be reached on a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween the EU and Bri­tain, the Taoiseach has warned.

Leo Varad­kar also dis­missed sug­ges­tions that talks on Brexit and pre­vent­ing a bor­der in the North would come down to the last minute in Oc­to­ber as Bri­tain would not be at that EU sum­mit then.

On­go­ing ques­tions around Brexit come ahead of an­other sum­mit later this month in Brus­sels where EU lead­ers will meet.

Speak­ing in Madrid yes­ter­day, Mr Varad­kar again stressed that, at the mo­ment, not enough progress has been made by Bri­tain on the Ir­ish ques­tion.

“As things stand, I can’t say that suf­fi­cient progress has been made,” he said. “I think the cus­toms pa­per pro­duced by the UK gov­ern­ment is wel­come. It is a small step in the right di­rec­tion. But it isn’t enough, we will have to hold the UK to the com­mit­ments that it made in t h e a g re e m e n t i n D e cem­ber.”

This draft agree­ment said that, in the ab­sence of fresh so­lu­tions from Lon­don, a back­stop deal would guar­an­tee no new bor­der in the North.

Mr Varad­kar re­it­er­ated that the EU task­force and mem­ber states con­tinue to stand be­hind Ire­land’s po­si­tion.

He also said he looked for- ward to wel­com­ing Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker to Dublin next Tuesday.

Asked if he ex­pected any more con­tri­bu­tions or progress from Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Theresa May be­fore the June meet­ing, Mr Varad­kar said: “That would be nec­es­sary for us to say that real and sub­stan­tial progress has been made.

“All we are ask­ing the UK gov­ern­ment is that it hon­our the com­mit­ment that it made back in De­cem­ber.

“As things stand, we have a with­drawal agree­ment and a back­stop, but still in draft form. And they will need to be agreed be­fore we can agree any­thing on a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween the EU and UK.”

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar meets new Span­ish prime min­is­ter Pe­dro Sánchez in Madrid.

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