Published On: Fri, Sep 6th, 2019

Varadkar says Brexit checks can be carried out away from the border | UK | News

The Irish Prime Minister’s hardline attitude in keeping the measure has driven Brexit to the brink of no deal. Top secret talks between Dublin and the European Commission are being held in the hope of finding a solution to prevent a hard border if Britain leaves the bloc without an agreement. But critics of the backstop have seized on his comments and claimed that Brussels is using the border for political gain.

Brexiteers have been buoyed by the work being done to keep customs checks away from the border, insisting it can pave the way to abolishing the backstop.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said there would have to be some checks on goods and live animals entering Ireland after Brexit.

He told the audience that the checks are likely to be required “near the border” after a no-deal Brexit, which he warned was becoming an increasingly likely scenario.

Mr Varadkar said: “Flights, trains and buses will continue to operate normally for a period but an agreement will be needed for this to continue permanently.

“EU vessels will no longer be allowed to fish in UK waters and vice-versa, though the Commission has proposed a short extension of the status quo.

“Tariffs will apply to goods imported into Ireland from the United Kingdom and vice-versa – this will be expensive and bureaucratic for business.

“There will be checks on goods and live animals and, as far as possible, they will take place in ports, airports and at businesses. But some may take place near the border. We are working out the details of this with the European Commission.”

Brexiteers and, most recently, David Frost, Boris Johnson’s top EU adviser, have voiced support for “maximum facilitation” technology as a solution for avoiding a hard border.

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“The whole issue is being used by Brussels as an attempt to keep the UK closely minded to EU laws and stopping us striking our own free trade deals as a sovereign and independent nation.”

Mr Varadkar has insisted the Irish government is “open to alternatives” to the backstop “as we always have been. But they must be realistic ones, legally binding and workable in practice”.

“We have received no such proposals to date,” he added.

“Whatever happens, Ireland will not be dragged out of the single European market.”

During recent meetings with EU negotiators, Mr Frost has pushed the backstop to be drastically cut in size to only include citizens’ rights, the single electricity market and the Commons Travel Area.

The Prime Minister’s envoy said Britain would then commit to finding operable solutions to the Irish border during latter talks.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, will discuss the backstop during talks later today.

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