Varadkar and Johnson ‘planning to meet’, says Minister
Paschal Donohoe confirms Taoiseach’s and PM’s offices in contact during BBC interview
A meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson is being organised as the UK government continues to insist the backstop should be scrapped if there is to be any Brexit deal.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson’s offices are in contact about arranging a meeting.
Although Mr Varadkar invited Mr Johnson to Dublin during an initial phone call between the pair last week, Mr Johnson did not immediately take up the offer.
Mr Donohoe, speaking to BBC’s Newsnight after meeting Sajid Javid, Mr Johnson’s chancellor of the exchequer, in London on Tuesday said Mr Varadkar and the prime minister are “planning to meet”.
“They had a good phone call there a number of days ago and their respective offices now are looking to set up a meeting,” he said. “But I would anticipate they would meet. I know they are looking to schedule that meeting and I would anticipate that will happen.”
The meeting between Mr Donohoe and Mr Javid was the first between a senior Government figure and one of Mr Johnson’s leading ministers. In line with Mr Johnson’s position, Mr Javid told Mr Donohoe the backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard border, must be abolished in order for there to be a Brexit deal.
If it is not, Mr Johnson says he will take the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. Mr Donohoe told Mr Javid the backstop must stay and said after the meeting the “the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is growing”.
Speaking at Belfast’s Féile and Phobaíl last night, Mr Varadkar said discussions could begin on how alternative arrangements – technological solutions, which Dublin and Brussels believe do not yet exist – to avoid a hard border could be examined in the political declaration, the looser accompanying text to the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The backstop is one of the main elements of the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Donohoe would not be drawn on whether the meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar will take place before or after the G7 summit in Biarritz between August 24th and 26th, when Mr Johnson is expected to meet French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Speaking earlier yesterday, Mr Varadkar said even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, new British-EU negotiations must open up in which one of the first three items on the agenda will be “a solution to the Irish Border”.
“If there is no deal then at a certain point we will have to begin negotiations again and the first items on the agenda will be citizens’ rights, the financial settlement (with the EU) and a solution to the Irish Border.”
When asked if there could be a new deal that would see a time limit put on the backstop in exchange for an island of Ireland zone for food and agriculture, Mr Donohoe said: “There is so much speculation going on at the moment regarding different options and things that may or may not happen.
“The stance of the European Union and the Irish Government is really clear: the withdrawal agreement will not be opened again. The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement. It is an indispensable part of it.”