Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar say ‘significant gaps’ remain after crunch Brexit talks

Posted On: 
9th September 2019

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar have admitted that "significant gaps" remain between them on Brexit following crunch talks between the two leaders.

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar at Government buildings in Dublin
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister travelled to Dublin to meet with Ireland’s Taoiseach on Monday morning for the first time since taking the top job in July.

In a joint statement the pair said it was a “positive and constructive” meeting but that discussions were at an “early stage”.

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“This was an essential and timely opportunity for the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to establish a relationship and a better understanding of each other’s positions,” they said.

“While they agreed that the discussions are at an early stage, common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain.

“The UK and Ireland are committed to securing an agreement between the European Union and the UK, and recognise that negotiations take place through the Brussels Task Force.

“They also shared their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland.”

The comments come after Mr Johnson told a press conference in Ireland that leaving the EU without a deal would be a “failure of statecraft” in which he would share the blame.

He said he would “overwhelmingly prefer” for the UK to leave with an agreement, and he believed it was still possible to strike a deal by 18 October, following an EU Council summit.

But Mr Varadkar stressed there could be no deal without the UK accepting the Irish backstop - or without "realistic" alternatives, which he said had not yet been brought to the table.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly called for the controversial arrangement to be scrapped from any deal.

"In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us," Mr Varadkar said.

"All it does is kick the can down the road for another 14 months, another 14 months of uncertainty for business, another 14 months of uncertainty for people north and south of the border.

"So that’s not an option that we find attractive at all.’