London: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, have aired their disagreement over the backstop provision to guarantee an open Irish border after Brexit, the two sides say.
Varadkar told Johnson on phone that the backstop clause in Britain’s EU withdrawal agreement was necessary and the agreement could not be reopened, the Irish government says.
He said London and Brussels can negotiate alternative arrangements to replace the backstop if Britain leaves EU under the withdrawal agreement, which was forged by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.
Downing Street says Johnson made clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on Oct. 31, no matter what.
“He told Varadkar that his clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal, but it must be one that abolishes the backstop,” it says.
“Ireland isn’t going to be bullied on this issue and as a government and as a country, I think we are going to stick by our position,” Varadkar said in an interview.
Varadkar said Ireland had “total support” from other EU countries on the backstop, designed as an insurance policy to prevent border controls between EU-member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland but which Johnson says will keep Britain tied to EU customs rules.
Varadkar said his first phone call with Johnson on Tuesday “went reasonably well” and said he did not consider it a snub that the call came six days after his appointment.
Image: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British counterpart Boris Johnson