Irish and UK pledges seem to set scene for a no-deal Brexit

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Leo Varadkar has again reiterated that the Irish border backstop is not up for renegotiation.

The taoiseach’s office said that this “has repeatedly been made clear”.

The European Union seems similarly adamant.

Boris Johnson, on the other hand, is equally adamant that the backstop must go and even a time limit is unacceptable.

It is welcome that the prime minister has been so firm on this point. Mr Johnson could easily have got into Downing Street by talking tough, and then seized on some change to the Political Declaration (which accompanies the backstop) and then deemed the Withdrawal Agreement now acceptable, and pushed for its implementation.

While it is welcome that he has not done this, it is also surprising. Mr Johnson could easily now be brought down by his most pro EU Tory backbenchers.

It is also surprising because Mr Johnson bitterly criticised the backstop at last year’s DUP conference, then voted for it.

His apparent refound resolution against the backstop, which as he says would tear Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, sets up the prospect of a no-deal departure from the EU on October 31. This date has become totemic, much as March 31 was totemic, and then abandoned for an extension.

This is a high risk approach. There is a case to be made for a further extension if it opens the way to a new Brexit deal.

There is no room for unionist complacency now.

Mr Johnson’s past u-turn on the backstop illustrates the perils of it suddenly being imposed.

There is even a real risk that something akin to the backstop will be imposed on Northern Ireland in the event of no deal, so preoccupied will London be with other challenges if that scenario comes to pass.

As Lord Empey’s letter, right, implies, London has not even been resolute is stopping a pension for those injured by their own terrorism, which does not bode well for any political firmness on other matters.