A DRAFT Brexit withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU has pledged to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Prime Minister Theresa May said her cabinet had backed the agreement following a five-hour meeting.
While welcoming the agreement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this evening that he ‘regrets’ that the UK is leaving the EU.
The backstop agreement would see the UK as a whole aligned with the EU customs union for a limited time.
The backstop would only kick in if no alternative trade deal is agreed by the end of a 21-month transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU in March 2019.
Both sides have resolved to ensure the backstop is not necessary by coming up with alternative arrangements, while there is scope for the transition period to be extended.
I am pleased an agreement has been reached between EU & UK negotiators on a draft #Brexit Withdrawal Treaty. While I welcome these developments, Brexit is not our policy & is something we regret. However we respect the vote of the people of the UK. pic.twitter.com/ff4HLr2XAs
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) November 14, 2018
The draft agreement says that the EU and the UK plan “to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing”.
It adds that any future arrangement must avoid a hard border, support North/South co-operation and protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Following the publication of the agreement, the Taoiseach tweeted to express his regret over Brexit.
He wrote: “I am pleased an agreement has been reached between EU & UK negotiators on a draft #Brexit Withdrawal Treaty. While I welcome these developments, Brexit is not our policy & is something we regret. However we respect the vote of the people of the UK.”
However the Taoiseach praised Mrs May for her integrity, adding: “These negotiations have been a tough, difficult experience for everyone involved. I want to acknowledge Prime Minister May’s integrity in honouring her promise to protect the Peace Process & Good Friday Agreement. She has been true to her word.”
Varadkar confirmed earlier today that the agreement will be debated and voted on in the Dáil next week.