The nominee for the European Commission presidency has said the Irish border backstop is “precious, important and has to be defended.”
Ursula von der Leyen this afternoon warned British politicians that it is their responsibility to “sort out” the UKs exit from the EU.
“Though I still hope you remain, it is in our interests to have you sort things out,” she said.
“We do have an agreement, which hasn't been signed on both sides, and we do have the backstop.”
“I think it's a good deal – but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out.
“That is my attitude concerning Brexit.”
She said the “tone and the attitude” of Brexit is crucial, adding “Brexit is not the end of something, Brexit is the beginning of future relations and it's of absolute importance that we have good cooperation.”
The German Defence Minister was speaking to European Parliament liberals this afternoon as she attempts to win votes ahead of a confirmation hearing next week.
Addressing Irish MEP Billy Kelleher, she said: “I think the backstop is of utmost importance and we absolutely know how crucial this non-existent border is for you.”
“Having the backstop in the Brexit deal is precious, important and has to be defended.”
In the Dáil meanwhile, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he can't guarantee anything when it comes to the border if there's a no-deal Brexit.
The latest contingency plans published by the Government yesterday suggested there will need to be checks on goods coming from the north to the south of Ireland to protect the EU's single market.
The memo did not provide detail on what level of checks will be needed or where they will happen.
Discussions with the European Commission are ongoing to establish what will happen if the UK does crash out at the end of October.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this afternoon that he can’t give any guarantees about how any checks might be carried out.
“I wouldn’t be telling this country and this house the truth by saying that if we do have a no deal – if the UK does crash out – that I can somehow promise that we won’t end up in a difficult situation.
“That we won’t end up in a scenario that none of us would like to be in.
“That is why we have to secure a Withdrawal Agreement. That is why we have to ensure that we don’t end up in a no deal scenario.”
The contingency plans warn that a no deal Brexit will have “significant impacts on Ireland” – with officials expecting up to 55,000 jobs to be lost in the months after the UK crashes out.
Officials also warned that failure to reach a deal will leave a €6.5bn hole in the State’s finances in the first year alone.