Dublin will not give up on the Northern Ireland backstop clause in Britain’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has warned.
“To me, no backstop is effectively the same as no deal because what the backstop represents is a legally operable guarantee that we will never see a hard border emerge again,” Varadkar told the Irish public broadcaster RTÉ, adding”If we don’t have that, that is no deal”.
Varadkar also rejected the notion of an expiry date on the backstop clause which would put the onus on the EU rather than the UK to work out a workable solution for the island’s unity. He did not exclude the possibility of a “technological solution” that has been advocated by the UK’s pro-Brexit campaigners. He pointed out, however, that the technology required to ensure no checks on the border were not fully developed or had been successfully tested elsewhere.
“What people are saying is give up the backstop, which we know will work legally and operationally, in return for something that does not yet exist, but might in the future…I can’t do that to the border communities,” Varadkar said.
Varadkar made clear that none of Theresa May‘s successors should hope for a better deal from Brussels. “The failure of the House Of Commons to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement somehow means they are going to get a better deal, that is just not how the European Union works,” Varadkar said.
Many British Conservative have expressed concerns that agreeing to the backstop – which is in effect, an insurance policy to make sure that the Irish border remains open once the UK officially leaves the European Union – would indefinitely entrap the UK in the Customs Union and the Single Market.
The assumption is that no British government would agree to a separate status for Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.