Varadkar dismisses time-limited backstop

The Taoiseach has dismissed the idea of a time-limited backstop, saying it would not be worth the paper it is written on.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 5th November 2018, 12:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th November 2018, 5:51 am
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Pic by Brian Lawless, PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Pic by Brian Lawless, PA

Leo Varadkar said he expects the British Government to stick to the commitments it made to the EU last December for a legally enforceable backstop to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Reports at the weekend that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU’s proposed Irish backstop after just three months has been criticised by the Irish government.

Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said that their position remains “consistent and clear” that a time-limited backstop will never be agreed to by Ireland or the EU.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Varadkar described the UK as a “divided kingdom”, which he said has not helped the negotiation process.

“The UK in many ways is a divided kingdom, the people are split 50/50 over whether they want to leave the European Union or not,” he said.

“The Cabinet seems divided, the Government seems divided, Parliament is divided, and that has made it very difficult to come to an agreement.

“I’d much prefer to have a united kingdom, a united country, to be our partner in these negotiations, but we don’t, so we have to work through.

“Thankfully in Ireland we have a government that is united, and we have in Parliament as well, that’s largely united behind the Government on this issue.”

He said that the Irish Government was working hard to try to reach an agreement by the end of the year but added that it cannot countenance the idea of a three-month limit to the backstop agreement.

“A backstop with a three-month limit on it or expiry date of that nature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and what the backstop the UK Government has signed up to is a legally operative backstop that will apply unless and until we have any agreement to supersede it,” he continued.

“I think it’s reasonable for us to expect a country like the United Kingdom and a government like the UK Government to stand by its commitments.”

He spoke as he attended an official opening of a newly built development of 42 social homes in north Dublin.

The new housing features 31 one, two and three-bedroom apartments and 11 townhouses and will provide homes for 150 people.

It comes as the number of homeless people living in emergency accommodation increased last month, adding to the country’s housing crisis.

Mr Varadkar said the new housing development is an example of the Government’s attempt to sort out the housing shortage.

He added: “Of course to some of our opponents, particularly those on the left, this place doesn’t exist because it’s not directly built by a local authority, it’s built through a partnership involving the city council and Oaklee Housing Trust.

“I think to the people who live here they will tell you that it does exist and that it provides really high quality public housing.”