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Johnson has avoided early contact with Varadkar

July 29, 2019

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Boris Johnson, then British Foreign Secretary, with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, in November, 2017. RollingNews.ie photo.

 

By Anthony Neeson

 

Nearly a week on from becoming British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has yet to make contact with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

And a meeting anytime soon would seem unlikely given multiple reports today pointing to Johnson vowing not to meet with any European Union leaders until they agree to remove the proposed border Backstop.

The lack of contact between the taoiseach and new occupant of 10 Downing Street is being viewed as highly unusual, especially amid rising tensions over Brexit, and the new UK government’s threat to leave the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal.

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The matter was raised by Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill during a meeting on Monday with the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith.

Boris Johnson is expected in Northern Ireland in the coming days.

“I would judge that it is highly discourteous that the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not engaging with the taoiseach,” O’Neill said.

“That is highly offensive given the disastrous impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland.”

O’Neill said the new Secretary of State did not offer an explanation.

And she continued: “Whoever phones who first, the issue that needs to be discussed are the implications, the catastrophic implications for the island of Ireland so I think whenever the Taoiseach and Boris Johnson speak at some stage I think the message will be very, very clear from An Taoiseach – which will be around Brexit, the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, it will be around the fact the withdrawal agreement needs to be adhered to and agreed because this is what the British government negotiated themselves a short time ago.

“British-Ireland relations are very important, that does strike right to the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, but the jeopardy that the British government want to bring to our people on this island cannot be understated – it is huge, it’s going to impact for generations to come.”

An Irish government spokesperson said: “There has been contact at official level and it’s expected that the Taoiseach and the PM will speak in the near future.”

In his latest move, Prime Minister Johnson has said that he will only sit down with EU leaders to discuss Brexit when they shift their position, otherwise Britain will leave without a deal on October 31.

A British government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister would be happy to sit down when that position changes. But he is making it clear to everybody he speaks to, that that needs to happen.”

It’s unclear as to whether Johnson would be open to a phone conversation with Varadkar.

Meanwhile, with the new British government talking up the case for a no-deal Brexit, the pound fell to its lowest level for more than two years on Monday.

 

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