Ireland tells EU it won’t accept a ‘Brexit border’, PM says

By BLOOMBERG

DUBLIN • Irish Prime Minister (PM) Leo Varadkar (picture) said he won’t accept the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit even if Britain crashes out of the European Union (EU) without a deal on its future relationship with the bloc.

Varadkar said he couldn’t countenance the re-emergence of border infrastructure and checks between the south and north of Ireland following Brexit.

“The UK has said they won’t do it,” Varadkar said in an interview with Dublin-based broadcaster TV3. “And I’ve made it very clear to other European prime ministers and presidents that’s something Ireland will never do.”

The UK has been told to come up with a so-called “backstop” solution for the Irish border as part of its divorce deal with the EU so that no policed frontier emerges on the island after Brexit. It made a partial proposal last Thursday, and the EU said last Friday that while it’s prepared to keep talking about it, some key elements of the plan won’t work.

Tensions are rising ahead of a crunch EU summit on June 28, which is the last meeting of the bloc’s leaders before October, when both sides say they want the divorce deal to be sealed. In just 10 months, Britain is due to leave the bloc, with or without a deal.

“There is a small possibility that we could end up with no deal in October, and therefore a hard Brexit next March,” he said, adding he was still “very confident” of an accord in October, “But in a ‘no deal’ scenario, at least until there is a deal — and sooner or later there will have to be a deal — we won’t be installing a hard border between the island of Ireland and everyone knows that,” he said.

Varadkar raised the possibility that EU leaders could schedule extra meetings in September, October or November in an effort to seal an accord with Britain.

“But you’ll know that there are a number of different scenarios that could arise if we’re in a ‘no deal’ situation. For example, it is possible to extend Article 50, to allow more time for negotiations to take place,” he said.

“There is the possibility of an interim deal, or a transition period, pending an outcome or final negotiations around the transition period.”