UK ‘will not be trusted’ if it fails to honour Border commitment

Leo Varadkar warns British government ahead of Dublin visit by European delegation

President of the European Council Jean Claude Junker pictured with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Government buildings on Thursday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

President of the European Council Jean Claude Junker pictured with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Government buildings on Thursday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The ability of Britain to strike free trade deals with other countries once it leaves the EU will be damaged if it does not honour its commitments on the Border, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said other countries could not trust the word of a country that does not stick to deals it has already done.

The Taoiseach was speaking ahead of a visit to Dublin on Thursday by European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. European commissioner Phil Hogan will also be part of the delegation.

Mr Juncker will address a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad, and Mr Varadkar will hold a dinner in Mr Juncker’s honour in Dublin Castle on Thursday night. Mr Varadkar is also expected to speak with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, by telephone.

It is expected that the senior EU figures will express support for Ireland as the Brexit talks stall over the issue of the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach said it called Britain’s ability to do a deal into question.

“If it is a country that is talking about going global, talking about making trade deals all over the world, how could anyone make a deal with a country that doesn’t stand by its commitments?” the Taoiseach asked.

Timeline

Next week’s summit was initially intended to reach agreement on the so-called “backstop”, but this timeline has been pushed back to later in the year.

Mr Varadkar has already pushed the timeline out, and even suggested that a deal on the backstop – which prevents a hard border even in a “no-deal” Brexit scenario – may not happen until November.

The Taoiseach said he expected that the EU would “stand behind Ireland”.

Senior figures in Dublin have suggested that the UK’s transition period after Brexit formally takes effect next March may be threatened.

Earlier this month a British government proposal that the Border “backstop” arrangement be extended to the whole of the UK was rejected by Mr Barnier.

The Taoiseach said there has not been “sufficient progress” from Britain in recent months. He said the backstop had been agreed in principle in December.

Stalled

“I had further progress in March where they accepted there had to be a backstop written as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, but since then, quite frankly, progress has stalled. What I want all of Europe to do is continue to stand behind Ireland, and to say to the United Kingdom that they have to honour the commitments they made.”