‘We will not be changing the backstop’, Dublin warns Johnson and Hunt | Politics News


Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been warned the EU will not consider any changes to the Irish border backstop, after the Tory leadership contenders hinted they would try and get it scrapped if they become prime minister.

Both men have said they would refuse to take Britain out of the EU with a tweaked version of the backstop that included a time limit built into it.

Mr Johnson told a debate hosted by The Sun and talkRadio on Monday: “No to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all these elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop.”

The backstop explained

Mr Hunt agreed, saying: “The backstop, as it is, is dead … I don’t think tweaking it with a time limit will do the trick, we’ve got to find a new way.”

The dismissal of accepting what would be a potentially key concession from Brussels has caused some politicians to say that the commitment from both candidates was tantamount to committing to no-deal.

Simon Hoare, the Tory MP who chairs the Northern Ireland affairs committee in parliament and is a Hunt supporter, told Sky News the comments were “worrying and depressing”.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said it amounted to a “crash out exit”.

The backstop is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border returning between Northern Ireland and the Republic and was the most controversial element of Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

Brussels has insisted its inclusion is non-negotiable – a stance reiterated by Ireland’s finance minister on Tuesday, who declared: “We will not be changing the backstop.”

Paschal Donohoe continued: “What will be important for us is what happens when the new prime minister of the United Kingdom is elected.

“But the person who is taking over that role will not change the key issues that we are facing.

“There may well be a change in personality or outlook in dealing with this issue, but the Irish government and the European Union are really clear that we are not going to be changing the content of the backstop agreement and that in any future scenario the backstop and the withdrawal agreement will be needed.”

Mr Donohoe added that he thought this “reality” would quickly become apparent” to whoever succeeds Mrs May in Downing Street next week.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt at the Conservatives digital hustings. Pics: Facebook

Johnson and Hunt say backstop has to go

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have both promised to seek changes to the deal Mrs May struck with Brussels last year.

And both potential PMs have said they would be prepared to leave without a deal if necessary.

Mr Donohoe said Dublin remained of the view that such a scenario was a “significant and increasing risk”.

The government will make a new assessment of the likelihood in September once Irish PM Leo Varadkar has held talks with the new British leader and European counterparts, he added.


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