Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson, pictured in Dublin last month, could be meeting again this week. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Anthony Neeson
Boris Johnson’s government has drawn up a secret dossier to target Ireland if Brexit talks between the UK and the EU breakdown.
The Times of London has revealed that the dossier is to be used as a bargaining tool against Ireland, warning that the country could face a shortage of medicines as well as customs delays.
It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron warned Britain that there needs to be a Brexit deal by the end of the week.
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Last week, the British government published its new Brexit plans, including a regulatory border down the Irish Sea with Northern Ireland staying in the single market. However, the Northern Ireland Assembly would vote on this every four years – essentially giving the DUP a veto via the cross-community voting mechanism at Stormont – while Northern Ireland would leave the EU Customs Union along with Britain. This could lead to customs checks near the Irish border.
The Irish government and Brussels have warned against customs checks, while both are skeptical about giving the Northern Ireland Assembly – which hasn’t sat in nearly three years – a veto on Northern Ireland’s future.
The DUP are alone in supporting the British government’s plans, which have been heavily criticized by all the other political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as business leaders in the North. The DUP have been accused of committing a U-turn after having previously warned against regulatory difference between Northern Ireland and Britain.
With an intensification of talks this week, there is speculation that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson could meet this week.
The British government’s Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, has indicated in recent days that his government are willing to rethink the mechanism that would give Stormont a veto on any new arrangements.
However, on the customs issue, he said: “We’ve set out a broad landing zone. In the detail of the negotiations, of course we can get into the detail as to how operationally they work, what legal certainty is required by the commission.”
With the EU summit on October 17 fast approaching, Boris Johnson is phoning European leaders to sell his plans.
Taoiseach Varadkar said there was still time for a deal.
“I think a deal is still possible,” he said.
“It is possible at the European Council summit in two weeks’ time but the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn’t feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, meanwhile, has questioned plans for a Stormont veto.
“We cannot support any proposal that suggest one party or indeed a minority could make a decision for the majority on how these proposals would be implemented in the future. It would not be consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster hit back saying the proposals would ensure Northern Ireland could not be “trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU.”
“Simon Coveney’s remarks are deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent,” she said.