Irish government says Dominic Raab’s Brexit backstop plan ‘not worth the paper it's written on’
Dublin has heaped scorn on Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s demand for Britain to be able to pull out of a deal on the Irish border after three months.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar rubbished Mr Raab’s proposal for Britain to be able to unilaterally exit the fallback arrangement with the EU, saying it would leave the attempt to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland “not worth the paper it's written on”.
Talks between the UK and Brussels have been deadlocked in recent weeks over the best way to keep the frontier between Ireland and Northern Ireland open in case Britain leaves without a comprehensive deal.
Mr Raab is reported to have written to Theresa May urging her to get behind proposals to allow any backstop agreed with the EU to be shelved after three months.
But Mr Varadkar said the EU side “can’t countenance” a plan that would allow the UK to pull out on that timeframe.
“A backstop with a three-month limit on it, or an expiry date of that nature, isn't worth the paper it's written on,” he said.
“And what the UK government has signed up to is a legally operative backstop that will apply unless and until we have a new agreement to supercede it.
“And I think it's reasonable for us to expect a country like the United Kingdom and a government like the UK government to stand by its commitments.”
That view was echoed by Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, who said the plan reportedly being floated by Mr Raab could “never be agreed to” by the European Union.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister refused to be drawn on the contents of Mr Raab’s letter to her on the backstop.
“The position that we have set out is that we don’t want the backstop to be in place indefinitely and we will be looking to a mechanism to achieve that,” he said.
“Negotiations on all these things are ongoing and I’m not going to get into the details of it.”
Anti-Brexit campaigners were quick to pounce on Ireland’s dismissal of the latest proposal.
Speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign, Labour MP Owen Smith said: "The British and Irish Governments are the Co-Guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. So this idea by Dominic Raab that Britain might unilaterally pull out of an agreement to maintain the open border so crucial to the Agreement displays either worrying ignorance or an arrogantly cavalier attitude to the peace process.
“Any deal on the border has to be rock solid and agreed by both parties on behalf of all of the people of Ireland."
Number 10 sources meanwhile pushed back at reports that emerged over the weekend of a Brexit deal being agreed this week.
The Sunday Times reported that Mrs May had clinched a Brexit deal that would allow her to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU to protect the Irish border.
But Downing Street sources downplayed speculation that tomorrow's Cabinet meeting could be used to present the outline of a deal to top ministers.
In a further sign that talks remain deadlocked, the source meanwhile suggested an EU summit once pencilled in for this month to sign off on a deal could be pushed back or even shelved entirely.