Agreeing backstop deal a matter of trust, says Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arriving for a meeting of the European People's Party EPP in Brussels yesterday. Picture by AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar last night said the key issue of agreeing the backstop deal is not only an issue of substance, but "an issue of trust".

Mr Varadkar reiterated the Republic's position on the backstop, which he said must be legally operable and would prevent a hard border emerging.

His comments came ahead of the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels. Both leaders spoke by telephone earlier this week, however, there were no indications they are closer to resolving the outstanding Irish border issue.

Mr Varadkar said he welcomed fresh thinking, but added "time is running out".

"We have always been abundantly clear about what our objectives are and they have been the same since the referendum happened, and that is that there should be a withdrawal agreement that allows us for an orderly exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union," he added.

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Speaking about the border issue, Mr Varadkar added: "We can't have an expiry date, it can only be temporary unless and until we have an alternative agreement that also ensures us that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

"That's what we agreed in writing with the European Union and the United Kingdom back in March so this is not just an issue of substance, it's also an issue of trust."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill last night said in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there "must be a referendum on Irish unity", while the DUP's Sammy Wilson said his party had received assurances on border checks from the permanent secretaries of the HMRC and the department of health.

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