Brexit: Varadkar rejects May’s suggestion of US-Canada style border

Prime minister’s suggestion greeted with derision in House of Commons

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has flatly rejected an idea floated by British prime minister Theresa May yesterday that the Canada-US border could serve as a model for the Border in Ireland after Brexit.

Mr Varadkar declined to comment specifically on Ms May's remarks on Monday, saying he had not heard them, but said he had visited the US-Canada border last summer.

“I saw a hard border, with physical infrastructure, with customs posts, people in uniform with arms and dogs. And that is definitely not a solution that we could possibly entertain,” the Taoiseach said at a press conference with Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel at Government Buildings.

In the House of Commons on Monday, Ms May was asked by Labour MP Emma Reynolds for an example of a border between two countries that were not in a customs union where there were no checks on lorries carrying goods.


"There are many examples of different arrangements for customs around the rest of the world and indeed we are looking at those, including for example the border between the United States and Canada," Ms May replied.

The prime minister was responding to questions arising from a statement she made on a key Brexit speech delivered last Friday.

Opposition MPs greeted the prime minister's suggestion with derision and Labour's shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman pointed out that the border between Canada and the US is protected by armed officers.

Technological solutions

Ms May said it was one of a number of examples her government was looking at, and she also cited a European Parliament report which proposes technological border solutions.

“We are looking at the border arrangements in a number of countries around the world. This is something that has been picked up within the European parliament and it has been made clear that there are innovative solutions that can deliver exactly what we’re talking about,” she said.

Ms May restated her rejection of last week's draft legal test from the European Commission which spelled out how Northern Ireland could be included within the EU customs area. She said London, Dublin and Brussels must work together to find a solution for the Border and warned of the consequences for Ireland of a border in the Irish Sea.

"This is something for us to discuss with the European Commission and the Irish Government because it's in all our interests to ensure that there isn't that hard border," she said. "It's also in the interests of the Irish Government that there is no border down the Irish Sea, given the extent of trade between the rest of the United Kingdom and Ireland as well."

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley has insisted she believes it is possible to avoid a hard border after Brexit.

Speaking during her first visit to Derry, Ms Bradley acknowledged there were tensions over the border issues but said that with “determination and will we can get this right”.

“Brexit has been raised with me everywhere I’ve gone,” she said. “Our commitments to both the Belfast Agreement and the commitments made in the joint report before Christmas stand firm...We will not have a hard border.”

Draft guidelines

Meanwhile, no new or substantive measures concerning the Irish Border are expected to be included in the EU’s draft guidelines for a post-Brexit trade deal when they are published in Brussels this week.

EU sources expect that the guidelines will say that if the UK does not step back from its “red lines” – leaving the customs union and single market – then the only option will be a free-trade agreement, though potentially with a wider scope than some existing trade deals, including the EU’s agreement with Canada.

The guidelines are being published on Tuesday and debated by the remaining 27 EU states to set out a road map for the next phase of negotiations around the future EU-UK relationship after Brexit.