Europe

Varadkar: NI only backstop could avoid hard border

Leo Varadkar Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Varadkar was speaking on the Today With Sean O'Rourke show on RTÉ radio

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said a NI-only backstop would "not go down well with the DUP", but that it is still an option.

The taoiseach said that while he can see a route to avoid a hard border, the Republic is still stepping up its preparations for one.

One option, he said, is to revert to the proposal of a backstop in Northern Ireland and not the rest of the UK.

The EU has given the UK a Brexit extension until the end of October.

In February 2018, the European Commission had proposed keeping Northern Ireland within the EU customs territory and common regulatory area.

This was called the Northern Ireland specific backstop, which would require customs and regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland if it ever came into force.

But this proposal was rejected because many, including the DUP, argued that it would threaten the integrity of the UK.

"I don't think it would go down well with the DUP at all," said Mr Varadkar.

"But, like I say, the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, wasn't something the European Union or Ireland imposed on the UK, it's something that we co-designed with the UK."

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's Today With Sean O'Rourke show, Mr Varadkar said that he looks forward to meeting the new prime minister to negotiate a deal.

He said that a no-deal Brexit can be avoided, but that if it happens that is the choice of the British people.

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Media captionBBC News NI's political reporter Jayne McCormack explains why the border is an issue

"It is open to them to revoke Article 50. It is open to them to accept the withdrawal agreement. It is open to them to request an extension for a good reason," he said.

"I want to hear from the new prime minister himself as to his suggestions as to how he can secure a withdrawal agreement."

Port delays

Mr Varadkar also said that delays at Irish ports are likely in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"I cannot see there not being delays. This is a big change," he said.

"Will there be delays at Dover and Calais? Absolutely.

"Will there be potential delays at Dublin and Rosslare? Yes. I think it will be the same, but it will work."

He said the Republic is ready for the withdrawal, with 700 extra officials employed and temporary structures at Dublin Airport and Dublin and Rosslare sea ports.

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