Northern Ireland news

Dublin hopeful of leaders meeting early next month

Boris Johnson is expected to meet the taoiseach early in September. Picture by Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire

THE Dublin government is reasonably confident that Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson will meet early next month – around eight weeks before the UK is schedule to leave the EU.

However, the taoiseach's office confirmed last night that no date has been set for the face-to-face talks, even though the pair provisionally agreed to meet after an invitation from the Fine Gael leader a fortnight ago.

Fears that Britain will exit the EU without a deal have grown since Mr Johnson became Tory leader three weeks ago. The British government has said any new negotiations with the EU must focus on developing an alternative to the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, which is designed to keep the border open.

Dublin has insisted that the backstop will not be up for renegotiation when the leaders meet.

Mr Johnson is due to meet French leader Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Biarritz on August 24-26.

A Downing Street spokesman yesterday said the prime minister had accepted the taoiseach's invitation but that a date for the meeting had yet to be set.

A Dublin government spokeswoman said the taoiseach's office was liaising with their counterparts in London to agree a date.

"Such a meeting would give both sides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of their respective positions," the spokeswoman said.

“As has repeatedly been made clear, the withdrawal agreement and the backstop are not up for negotiation."

She said any discussions on changes to the political declaration would be between the British government and Brussels.

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