Monday, 16 September, 2019

Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson discuss backstop in hour-long phone conversation

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Jeremy Corbyn Brexit'must go back to the people Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Jeremy Corbyn Brexit'must go back to the people
Lora Ball | 20 August, 2019, 22:29

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's demand that the European Union reopen the Brexit divorce deal was rebuffed on Tuesday by the bloc, which said Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border.

Johnson also said the backstop risked undermining the Northern Irish peace process.

With British politics in turmoil, it is still unclear how, when or indeed if the United Kingdom will leave the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote that time is short and proposed that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place (alternative) arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.

"It does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be, and in fact, it recognises there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transitional period".

The riddle of what to do about Ireland's 500-km (300-mile) land border with the British province of Northern Ireland remains has repeatedly imperilled Brexit talks.

Mr Tusk himself took to Twitter to give a robust response to the hard-line struck by Mr Johnson's government in recent weeks.

"We are ready to negotiate, in good faith, an alternative to the backstop", the spokesman said.

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He did not mention Johnson in the tweet but added, "Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not recognize it".

"In his letter, Johnson described the backstop as "inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK", adding that the arrangement would be "anti-democratic" because it offered no means for the United Kingdom to unilaterally exit and no say for the people of Northern Ireland over the rules that would apply there".

Johnson said the European Union was unlikely to make the concessions Britain is seeking as long as it believed there was a possibility that parliament would block Brexit.

Such words left a huge rift between the sides, as Johnson was preparing to visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday.

Yesterday, the European Commission issued a special statement announcing that it was ready for Brexit without a deal, but the loser in such a scenario would be Britain.

The backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place "alternative arrangements", as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship between the United Kingdom and EU.

Johnson also warned that it risks "weakening the delicate balance" of the Good Friday agreement, as parties like the DUP are not happy with it. That includes calling a no-confidence vote in Johnson's government and, if it succeeds, fighting the ensuing general election with a pledge to hold a second public vote on Brexit.

Downing Street said that unless the backstop is abolished "there is no prospect of a deal".

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