How Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ireland’s political leaders reacted to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan
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How Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ireland’s political leaders reacted to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan

LEO VARADKAR and other Irish political leaders have spoken out against Boris Johnson’s newly-revealed Brexit plan.

The UK prime minister put his new plans forward as part of a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The plans include a proposal that would see the island of Ireland become an all-island regulatory zone covering all goods, including agrifood.

Johnson said that this change would eliminate the need for regulatory checks on any goods moving north and south of the border.

The proposals would also see Northern Ireland remain part of the UK customs area though the zone would only come into effect if the Northern Ireland executive agreed to it.

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In a government statement, the Taoiseach it out at Johnson’s plans for failing to meet the agreed objectives of the Northern Ireland backstop.

While he stressed his desire to see a deal agreed, Varadkar dismissed Johnson’s suggestion that checks on goods moving between the north and south was simply a “technical” matter.

“I think it’s much more than a technical issue. It’s deeply political, it’s legal and the technical aspects are only a small part of it,” he said.

He also stressed that if the UK and Northern Ireland exits the EU, checks will be required on all goods.

“We have always argued that the best place to have those checks is at the ports and airports, and not along the 500km border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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“We negotiated an agreement with prime minister [Theresa] May and the British government that enabled exactly that. And that’s our position and that’s what makes sense to us.

“And nobody in Northern Ireland wants checks on the border between North and South. Nobody in the Republic wants checks between North and South.

“So why would any British government want to force that on Irish people North and South who don’t want it?”

Criticism of Johnson’s proposals were echoed by other Irish leaders.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald branded it “a very dangerous, reckless proposition that plays fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement”.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on Brexit Lisa Chambers said, “the proposals put forward by Boris Johnson are not realistic” and failed “to fulfil the commitment given by the British government that there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland”.

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Sinn Féin’s Northern leader, Michelle O’Neill added that the proposals served “only to pave the way for a no deal in 29 days time”.

“The British government is offering an all-Ireland regulatory zone for all goods, yet makes these arrangements dependent on the consent of the assembly, effectively giving the DUP a veto,” she said.

“This is entirely unacceptable. Sinn Féin will never concede this.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called the plans “dead on arrival”.

“This is no compromise proposal,” he said.

“We started this discussion on the basis that we don’t want any borders on this island. The British government’s counter offer is two borders by land and sea that are unacceptable to business, border communities and a majority of MLAs.

“The imposition of customs checks, with a need for physical infrastructure, will introduce heavy burdens on cross-Border businesses and supply chains that will seriously threaten profitability in key sectors.

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“We have already rejected it. The business community has already rejected it.

“This is a proposal from a government that doesn’t understand the complexities of this island, but more to the point they don’t care,” he added

(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Alliance party leader Naomi Long also branded the proposal “the worst of both worlds.”

“We’ve gone from having no new borders to having two,” she added.

“The idea the assembly, which hasn’t sat for nearly three years, would be able to come back and take on the responsibility for an international treaty which is between heads of sovereign Governments, is a ludicrous proposition.”

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“It is confirmation no deal has been the aim of the UK Government all along.”

By contrast the DUP welcomed Johnson’s proposals.

“The DUP has always indicated that the United Kingdom must leave the EU as one nation and in so doing that no barriers to trade are erected within the UK,” a statement read.

“This offer provides a basis for the EU to continue in a serious and sustained engagement with the UK government without risk to the internal market of the United Kingdom.

“It will require changes to the draft withdrawal treaty, and we welcome the fact that all sides now recognise that requirement in order to secure agreement.

“These proposals would ensure that Northern Ireland would be out of the EU customs union and the single market as with the rest of the United Kingdom.

“These proposals, which are entirely consistent with the spirit and principles of the Belfast Agreement, demonstrate commitment to working with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland in a spirit of mutual co-operation whilst respecting the integrity of Northern Ireland’s economic and constitutional position within the United Kingdom.”

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[Via The Irish Times]