World, Europe

No such thing as 'clean-break Brexit': Irish premier

In joint press conference with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Boris Johnson claims to have alternative backstop proposals

Muhammad Mussa   | 09.09.2019
No such thing as 'clean-break Brexit': Irish premier


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday held his first meeting with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar during a visit to Dublin in which supposed alternative proposals on the Irish backstop and no-deal Brexit issue were discussed. 

The two held a joint press conference prior to the meeting, with Taoiseach Varadkar warning Johnson of the severe risks of a no-deal Brexit not just to Britain but also to Ireland, which holds the only EU land border with the U.K.

“The story of Brexit will not end if the United Kingdom leaves on 31 October or even 31 January – there is no such thing as a clean break. No such thing as just getting it done. Rather, we just enter a new phase,” Varadkar said in a stark warning to Johnson.

“If there is no deal, I believe that’s possible, it will cause severe disruption for British and Irish people alike. We will have to get back to the negotiating table. When we do, the first and only items on the agenda will be citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, and the Irish border,” he added.

Varadkar also mentioned that even if a deal were to be agreed on by Oct. 31 -- the scheduled divorce date -- negotiating a free trade deal with the EU would be a “Herculean task” as it would require approvals from all EU member states.

Johnson, however, insisted that he wanted to secure an agreement before Oct. 31, describing a no-deal Brexit as a failure in which all members and negotiators would be responsible, in a rhetorical shift from his usual defense of leaving the EU without an agreement.

“I want to find a deal. I have looked carefully at no-deal. Yes, we could do it, the U.K. could certainly get through it, but be in no doubt that outcome would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible,” he said.

“We will come out on Oct. 31, and I’m sure that parliamentarians will see the wisdom of doing that and respecting, honoring, the [2016] referendum result -- the democratic referendum result,” he added.

Proposals not in plain sight

Furthermore, Johnson claimed that he had “an abundance of proposals” for alternatives to the contentious Irish backstop, which he and many Brexiteers have derided and rejected. Johnson, however, failed to give any details of these proposals and if he actually had any.

Nonetheless, Varadkar reiterated the importance of the backstop in an any deal and argued that no backstop would effectively mean a no-deal Brexit, saying: “In absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us.”

Despite Johnson’s insistence that he will negotiate a deal with the remaining 27 EU members, he nonetheless refused again to request an extension to Article 50, as stated and required in the anti no-deal Brexit bill that passed through parliament and is due to become law by the end of Monday.

Shortly after Johnson’s meeting with Varadkar, Downing Street confirmed that parliament will be suspended, or prorogued, on Monday night until Oct. 14. On Friday, a high court ruled that Johnson’s suspension of parliament was legal and as such it will be the longest prorogation in modern British history during the U.K.’s biggest political crisis since the end of the World War II.

The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 after two extensions granted by the EU.

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