Senior Northern Ireland politicians meeting Taoiseach for Brexit talks

Darnell Taylor
November 19, 2018

As representatives from Northern Ireland's four main pro-remain parties met Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday, the draft agreement the Taoiseach had publicly supported seemed certain to be rejected by the Commons.

"For us, we want to remain in the customs union and the single market and we want protections for the Good Friday Agreement, our message is as consistent today as it was yesterday".

He said the draft agreement had fully spelt out the "backstop" arrangement that would apply in Ireland if a wider EU-UK trade deal fails to materialise.

The United Kingdom, in turn, would likely be required by the World Trade Organisation to enforce its own border in Northern Ireland, he added. "I think in a no-deal scenario it would be very hard to avoid a hard border".

"Obviously if it's defeated in Westminster, it's hard to know where we go from there, as others have said it's maybe hard Brexit or no hard Brexit at all, but that's a decision for the UK Parliament to make".

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He added: "We must be clear on the fact that a no-deal outcome would be disastrous for Northern Ireland, particularly for the agri-food sector. Surely we have learned lessons from the past", Coveney told reporters at his Fine Gael party's annual conference.

Varadkar said he did not see any scope for renegotiating it unless the British government delayed its exit beyond March 29, something it has repeatedly ruled out.

He said: "I could today stand here and take the Prime Minister through the list of promises and pledges that she made to this House and to us privately about the future of Northern Ireland and the future relationship with the European Union but I fear it would be a waste of time since she clearly doesn't listen".

The Brexit deal is complex and unwieldy.

If Britain leaves without a deal next March, "we might find ourselves, after a few weeks of chaos, signing up to an agreement very close to the one we have now", he said.

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