News | Published September 09 2019

No-deal Brexit would be shared “failure”, prime minister says

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that a no-deal Brexit would be a “failure” for which both the British and Irish governments would be culpable.

Johnson’s words came ahead of his first meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin today.

Both leaders are set to hold Brexit talks with each holding differing views on how to breach the impasse in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith has moved to quell speculation that he will resign, after Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd quit over the weekend, with Parliament set to debate efforts on restoring the Northern Irish assembly in Stormont.

Ahead of talks, Varadkar has refuted the prospect of a clean break between the UK and the EU, calling it an impossible endeavour, while his counterpart Johnson remains in pursuit of a deal and believes that one can be struck before October’s key EU summit.

Legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit in October, which would require the prime minister to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline from the EU in the absence of a deal, is set to receive royal assent later today.

However, the prime minister has personally ruled out asking for a further extension, despite the Irish government saying that they would be in favour.

Following last week’s events in the Commons in which the government lost its Commons majority, Johnson told the press in Dublin that he remains “absolutely undaunted” and was adamant that he still “wanted to find a deal” with the EU.

Johnson said: "There are two tasks we simply have to do: we must restore Stormont and we must come out [of the EU] on 31 October, or else permanent damage will be done in the UK to trust in our democratic system”.

Meanwhile, Varadkar has said that the Irish government “cannot and will not replace legal guarantee” provided by the Irish backstop in the existing withdrawal agreement “with a promise”.

The Irish government is insistent that the backstop, which will avoid a hard border in Ireland, is needed in any withdrawal agreement, while Johnson wants the “anti-democratic” condition removed if he is to agree to any deal.

Johnson will discuss a number of alternatives to the backstop with Varadkar, including the possible introduction of an all-Ireland food standards zone, as well as an alternative backstop that would only apply to Northern Ireland.

In such an event, the local Stormont assembly would assume a key role in determining when it could be triggered or when any new regulations agreed post-Brexit with the EU could be enforced.

This option was discussed by the EU during negotiations with Theresa May's administration, but was ruled out by the Democratic Unionist Party. 

However, it may now be resurrected by Johnson after the DUP's influence in Westminster diminished with the loss of the government majority.

Back in Parliament, MPs will debate progress on the efforts to restore the Stormont assembly before prorogation takes place this week.

The government is determined to increase power-sharing in Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit, but should such talks fail to succeed, Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith has warned that Westminster would be forced to introduce direct rule powers.

Smith also tweeted on Monday that he would keep “working flat out” for Northern Ireland, distancing himself from following in the footsteps of outgoing Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd and resigning from his position. 

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
September 09 2019

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