British PM to meet Varadkar in Dublin in September

Phonecall with Taoiseach reveals Johnson sticking to stance on withdrawal agreement

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened;   British prime minister Boris Johnson says it will not pass the House of Commons.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened; British prime minister Boris Johnson says it will not pass the House of Commons.

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson is to visit Dublin in early September after he and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke for almost an hour by telephone on Monday night.

Government Buildings said the two men had “shared perspectives on the withdrawal agreement” but sources in Dublin said that both men had restated their existing positions.

The sharp divisions on the backstop are reflected in the agreed statement released after the call. Mr Johnson said the withdrawal agreement “in its current form” would not pass the House of Commons, while Mr Varadkar said the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened.

However, the two men said that their teams would be in close contact over the coming weeks. The statement also acknowledges that discussions on Brexit can only take place between EU and the UK, and it is understood that there are no talks scheduled with the British government on how to avoid border checks in the event of a no-deal.

Food and animals

Mr Varadkar has suggested that checks on food and animals, which officials say are necessary to protect the EU’s single market when the UK leaves, could take place on imports from Britain at Northern Ireland’s ports in order to avoid checks on the Border. This would require agreement with the British government, but no talks are currently scheduled, sources say.

High-level government sources in Dublin say that there are ongoing contacts between officials and some senior politicians, while a number of Ministers, including Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy have travelled to London to meet their counterparts.

But there have been no discussions on preparing for a no-deal, and one Brussels source says that no-deal preparations will be unilateral, and there will not be negotiations on preparing for a no-deal.

Despite last night’s call between Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson, senior sources in Dublin said the Irish Government – and the EU – would most likely await developments in London before considering any change in their approach.

Merkel and Macron

Mr Johnson is also expected to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron this week before travelling to a G7 meeting in France where he will meet other world leaders. Irish sources say they will expect a read-out on Mr Johnson’s position from their EU counterparts after Mr Johnson’s meetings.

However, they also say there is likely to be little if any serious engagement with the British government until challenges to Mr Johnson from MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit are resolved when the House of Commons meets again in September.

Mr Johnson on Monday rebuffed a call from UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to recall parliament, and also dismissed leaked warnings from his own officials about the potentially dire consequences of a no-deal Brexit on October 31st.

But alarm is also growing in Ireland about the effects of a no-deal Brexit. Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said the Government was “woefully unprepared” for a no-deal Brexit. “They’re burying their head in the sand with their fingers crossed behind their back,” she said.

Mr Johnson also reassured Mr Varadkar, the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland will not be affected by the ending of freedom of movement between the UK and EU after Brexit.