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13 Sep, 2019 11:16

Gap between UK and EU on Brexit ‘very wide,’ says Irish PM Varadkar

Gap between UK and EU on Brexit ‘very wide,’ says Irish PM Varadkar

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has stated that the EU and UK are far from agreement ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline, saying the gap between the two is “very wide” – a sentiment echoed by leaders in Northern Ireland.

Varadkar claimed that negotiations between Boris Johnson’s government and the EU negotiators had proved somewhat fruitless, most notably around the all-important Northern Ireland backstop issue. The Tory government’s Northern Irish allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have repeatedly refused any reworking of current proposals. 

“We always said we are willing to explore alternative arrangements... but so far I think it is fair to say that what we are seeing falls very far short of what we need,” Varadkar told Irish state broadcaster RTE radio in an interview on Friday. “The gap is very wide.”

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The DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, has echoed Varadkar’s sentiments, suggesting a deal is far from close, while flat-out refusing to accept EU regulations post-Brexit. 

“We will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop,” DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said. “It won’t be a backstop by any other name either. We will not be accepting separate arrangements that cut us off from the UK.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster vehemently denied any rumors or reports that her party would be making concessions on the issue.

Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the EU, ‘deal or no deal,’ by the October deadline, alienating many in his own party, and forcing through several extraordinary measures in order to achieve his stated intention, throwing the House of Commons into uproar in recent days.

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The PM’s predecessor Theresa May forged an agreement with the EU which would guarantee a regulatory harmonization between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to allow free trade without impediment. 

The British government rejected this proposal three times before May resigned over her inability to pass the deal, and now Johnson has insisted that the border backstop agreement must be replaced before a new deal with the EU can be reached. However, his government has thus far failed to offer proposals that meet EU requirements while satisfying both his allies and his own Conservative Party members. 

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