Johnson meeting will be chance to see if there's any "common ground" - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar says he will be looking to see if there's any "common ground" when he meets Boris Jo...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.05 8 Sep 2019

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Johnson meeting will be chance...

Johnson meeting will be chance to see if there's any "common ground" - Varadkar

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.05 8 Sep 2019

Share this article

Leo Varadkar says he will be looking to see if there's any "common ground" when he meets Boris Johnson in Dublin tomorrow.

The Taoiseach and British prime minister are holding their first formal bilateral meeting, but Mr Varadkar says he isn't expecting any big Brexit breakthrough during the talks.

Ahead of the talks, the Taoiseach was in Dublin Port this afternoon to inspect facilities built to deal with Brexit capacity issues.


Speaking to reporters, Mr Varadkar said he doesn't expect a big breakthrough tomorrow as any agreement would likely only be reached at the European Council summit in October.

However, he said any suggestion from the British government that negotiations are ongoing in Brussels to reach a new deal and drop the backstop by mid-October would be a "very optimistic assessment" that likely wouldn't be shared by other EU member states.

The British government has demanded the Irish backstop be dropped in any deal - a prospect that has been ruled out by the EU unless 'legally operable' alternatives are put forward.

The Taoiseach did stress that he believes all governments want a deal.

Mr Vardakar said: "The negotiations, as you know, happen between the EU taskforce, including Ireland, on one side and the UK government on the other - but that's not to say that we haven't been able to have discussions, share ideas, compare notes... that's what will happen tomorrow.

"I don't know if we can find some common ground around a Northern Ireland unique solution - but we've always said as a Government that's something we're open to.

"It will be interesting to see if we can explore tomorrow whether we could find some common ground around a Northern Ireland specific solution."


In a statement ahead of tomorrow's meeting, a spokesperson said the Taoiseach will tell Mr Johnson that the EU and Ireland are still committed to securing a Brexit deal.

However, Mr Varadkar will also stress they're making "all necessary arrangements to manage a no deal in the absence of any realistic, legally binding or workable alternatives".

The spokesperson said: "The Taoiseach is likely to state that Ireland respects the outcome of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but will emphasise that Ireland has very deep concerns about the re-emergence of a hard border in a hard Brexit.

"He will explain that Ireland’s priorities are to protect the rights of people in Northern Ireland, the peace process, and our place in the single market on which our jobs and our economy depend.

"And he will point out that if Northern Ireland diverges from the Republic, it has the potential to damage community relations and cause political instability in the North."

Meanwhile, the Labour leader accused the Government of being too "passive" in its response to the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Brendan Howlin was speaking at the party's think-in in Cork ahead of the new Dáil term.

He argued: "I would characterise a lot of the Government's response to a no-deal Brexit has been passive - in other words: 'we have funds, come and apply for them'.

"I think we now need to have a very proactive approach to every employer, to see what the impact is and have a tailor-made solution to bolster them against the sudden impact of Brexit."

Rudd resignation

Tomorrow's meeting will take place following a dramatic week in British politics.

Last night Mr Johnson was dealt a fresh blow when it emerged UK cabinet minister Amber Rudd was resigning from government and surrendering the Conservative party whip.

Amber Rudd Britain's Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd arrives at Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019 (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

21 other members of the party lost the whip after they backed the opposition efforts to pass legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr Show this morning, Ms Rudd claimed Downing Street's focus seemed to be primarily on a no-deal scenario rather than securing a deal before the October 31st deadline.

She said she had not received the reassurances she wanted about efforts to reach an agreement with the EU.

She argued: "I have not seen enough work going into actually trying to get a deal.

"I believe that [the prime minister] is trying to get a deal with the EU - I'm just saying what I have seen in government is that there's this huge machine preparing for no deal.

"You might expect in the balance between getting a deal and no deal... 50/50 in terms of work. But it's not that - it's like 80-90% of government time going into no deal."

However, the British foreign secretary Dominic Raab insisted the government is trying to get a Brexit deal.

He told Sky News' Sophie Ridge: "The EU have gone from saying 'we can't touch the withdrawal agreement or reopen it' to they're willing in principle to do so.

"That was a victory for the prime minister at the G7, and we've been following up on that. There has been progress."

The EU and Ireland have repeatedly insisted they will not consider dropping the Irish backstop unless the UK government offers credible and 'legally operable' alternatives.

Main image: Leo Varadkar (centre) with Helen McEntee (left) and Kevin Boxer Moran (right) at Dublin Port this afternoon. Picture by Sean Defoe

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