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A fair hearing, but...

The then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who is heavily tipped to emerge from the Conservative Party leadership contest to become Prime Minister this month, greeting President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins during the latter’s five-day state visit to Britain in April 2014. ROLLINGNEWS.IE/ARAS AN UACHTARAIN

By Anthony Neeson

The new British Prime Minister will get a fair hearing from the European Union, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, but the Brexit withdrawal agreement can’t be reopened, he warned.

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Varadkar was speaking in Brussels where he said he was looking forward to an early meeting with Boris Johnson who is the bookies’ favorite to take over from Theresa May later his month.

Asked whether he would be able to have a dialogue with Johnson, the Taoiseach said: “I am sure I will and I look forward to an early meeting with him assuming he is the new prime minister, which I don’t want to quite assume just yet.”

He said the new Prime Minister will get a fair hearing from the EU “whatever he has to say.”

“We also need to make sure that everyone in the UK understands that we mean what we say too and that’s the withdrawal agreement and the backstop can’t be reopened, but we will be open to changes in the political declaration.”

European Commission President Jean Claude Junker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have also reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be reopened.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has dismissed suggestions that the Irish government has damaged north-south relations by its actions over Brexit.

It comes after DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed that the Irish government’s role during Brexit negotiations had caused “much damage” to the relationship with Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the British-Irish Council in Manchester Varadkar said “only Brexit” had damaged relationships. With Stormont still not sitting there were no Northern Ireland politicians present, something which the described as “unfortunate”.

“One of the things that we all here found very unfortunate and very sad is that we are marking the 20th anniversary of the British-Irish Council here today and it’s an institution that has worked well: Scotland is here, Wales is here, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies, but Northern Ireland is absent,” said Varadkar.

“This institution was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement and there’s a sad irony that the only people who are missing are the representatives of Northern Ireland.”