Northern Ireland news

Leo Varadkar: 'New Brexit deal ensures no hard border between north and south'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at a round table for the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar said the new Brexit deal "ensures that there is no hard border between north and south", protecting the "all-island economy".

He was speaking in Brussels after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU negotiator Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed a draft agreement had been struck.

Mr Varadkar said it was "a good agreement allowing the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion" and he would be recommending the European Council back the deal.

He said he was comfortable with concessions which include compromises on a timescale and consent, adding Ireland's "objectives are achieved".

"The backstop has been replaced with a new solution, unique to Northern Ireland recognising its unique history and geography, and which protects the all island economy and access to the single market, and crucially takes account of the democratic wishes of the people in Northern Ireland, we have always expressed the view that we would never seek to keep the people of Northern Ireland in an arrangement against the will of the people," he said.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald "welcomed" the reaching of an agreement but said "there is no such thing as a good Brexit".

"Brexit is being foisted on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the people... Any deal can only mitigate the worst effects of Brexit; a least worst option."

Alliance leader and MEP Naomi Long said it "appears to be a worse deal than the original backstop, as envisaged by Theresa May" and does not provide "long-term economic or political certainty, with businesses left in a flux and any restored assembly put under continued pressure".

"People were promised unicorns in 2016, yet now they are now being asked to choose between a lame donkey and a dead donkey," she said.

"Given the need to avoid no deal, our preference is parliament passes the Johnson deal subject to it being put to the public in a UK referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the party will continue to "campaign to remain in the European Union".


"There is no such thing as a good Brexit - only degrees of harm caused to economic and political stability on this island", acknowledging the deal does "avoid a hard border and the introduction of customs or regulatory checks across this island".

"EU negotiators have obviously worked very hard to defend our interests. If the choice is between this deal or no deal, then the interests of people here must be defended."

UUP leader Robin Swann said the deal "would place Northern Ireland on the window ledge of the union", with a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea and "annex Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom".

Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey said the Brexit negotiations have "represented nothing more than a salvage operation" and called for a `People's Vote' on the deal.

"The proposal around a vote in a defunct Stormont Assembly is paper thin. I'd rather see a say for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole."

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