Irish PM Varadkar to seek urgent talks with new Prime Minister on backstop

Irish PM Varadkar to seek urgent talks with new Prime Minister on backstop

The Republic is on a collision course with the next occupant of Downing Street as Leo Varadkar seeks urgent talks with the incoming Prime Minister to hammer home why the EU won’t scrap the backstop.

It is widely expected that Boris Johnson will be confirmed today as the new leader of the Conservative Party.

A number of sources in Dublin have said they believe Mr Johnson is not as committed to a disorderly Brexit as portrayed.

However, they believe the message that the EU will not cave on the backstop “needs to be hammered home”.

The Taoiseach is expected to speak to the incoming Prime Minister at some stage this week – and a meeting may be possible in the coming weeks.

The Irish Government has always been keen not to engage in direct negotiations with the UK on Brexit – but officials see some value in outlining the value of the backstop directly to Mr Johnson. Any negotiations have been handled by the EU team led by Michel Barnier.

Key to Mr Johnson’s campaign was a promise to scrap the Irish backstop and renegotiate the withdrawal agreement achieved by Theresa May.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the Irish Government will have to work with “whoever the British Prime Minister is”.

“Unfortunately Ireland is in a vulnerable and exposed position,” Mr Coveney said, adding that the withdrawal agreement is “balanced and fair”.

He said the Irish Government would work with London to look at an “innovative way to try get us past this impasse”.

It comes as a prominent critic of Boris Johnson quit the Government yesterday.

Sir Alan Duncan resigned from the Foreign Office on the eve of the Tory leadership announcement and set out a plan for an early Commons test of Mr Johnson’s authority which could have prevented him entering Number 10.

Sir Alan launched an effort to hold an emergency Commons debate on the new Tory leader, a move which could have potentially dealt Mr Johnson a fatal blow before he formally took office.

But he said Commons Speaker John Bercow had turned down his application for such a debate after the leadership result is announced today but before the new Prime Minister is approved by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

If it had been allowed to go ahead, MPs would have been given the chance to consider “the merits of the newly chosen leader of the Conservative Party” and – crucially – whether the Commons “supports his wish to form a Government”.

Whoever wins the Tory leadership race will have to govern with a Tory-DUP majority of just two.


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