Varadkar tells Johnson new Brexit deal ‘not going to happen’

Taoiseach warns new British prime minister his negotiation plans are ‘not in the real world’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. ‘We look forward to an early engagement to talk about Brexit, to talk about Northern Ireland and to talk about bilateral relations between the UK and Ireland into the future.’ Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. ‘We look forward to an early engagement to talk about Brexit, to talk about Northern Ireland and to talk about bilateral relations between the UK and Ireland into the future.’ Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Boris Johnson, the new British prime minister, that an entirely new Brexit deal “is not going to happen”.

He also said negotiating a new deal “within weeks or months” - with Mr Johnson saying he can leave the EU with a new deal by the next Brexit deadline on October 31st - is “not in the real world”.

Mr Varadkar’s blunt message, in an interview on RTÉ News, came after Mr Johnson’s maiden speech as prime minister in Downing Street.

Mr Johnson said: “I am convinced we can do a deal without checks at the Irish Border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks and yet without that anti-democratic backstop.”

The backstop is the insurance policy to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

In response, Mr Varadkar said Mr Johnson’s message was “clear-cut but certainly not detailed”.

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“I think what I’d like to do is hear from him, to hear him put some flesh on the bones of what he heard today,” the Taoiseach said. “Confidence and enthusiasm is not a substitute for a European policy or a foreign policy. I want to hear in detail what he has in mind.

“Listening to what he said today, I got the impression that he wasn’t just talking about deleting the backstop, he was talking about a whole new deal, a better deal for Britain. That is not going to happen.”

He said the European Council does not meet again until mid-October and has “no plans” to meet any earlier than that.

‘Not in real world’

“And even if we were changing the negotiating guidelines, we wouldn’t be changing until then. So any suggestion that there can be a whole new deal negotiated in weeks or months is totally not in the real world.”

However, with Mr Johnson insisting Britain will leave the EU without a deal on the October 31st if necessary, Mr Varadkar said he is “confident” there are “enough people” in the House of Commons “who won’t do that to their country and I still believe that is very unlikely”.

Other parties, aside from the Conservatives, are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, with many Tory rebels also expected to oppose a no-deal Brexit.

“It is a very unstable political situation in the UK and that in some ways has given rise to this situation, but we are stable here,” Mr Varadkar said. “We are calm, we have a clear policy, we have lots of detail behind it and we have got solid support from other EU members states and the EU institutions. We are in strong position to get through this.”

He insisted that Ireland’s “red lines” have not changed.

“There can’t be a hard border between north and south and the rights and freedoms of people in Northern Ireland, particularly Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, have to be protected.”

He admitted he is “at odds” with Mr Johnson, but added: “These are the kind of things that we are going to have to discuss. I look forward to having the opportunity to sit down with him one to one and also for our teams to meet together and really see if he can put a little bit of detail behind some of those slogans and statements because we haven’t got that yet.

“We look forward to an early engagement to talk about Brexit, to talk about Northern Ireland and to talk about bilateral relations between the UK and Ireland into the future.”

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