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Boris rules out border checks; Taoiseach says pair have 'much to discuss'

  • Main points
  • Boris rules out border checks
  • Taoiseach says the pair have "much to discuss"
  • Direct rule in NI “contrary to the St Andrews agreement”
  • Mr Johnson says he wants to restore the Stormont Assembly
  • Leo: "No backstop is no deal for us."

Boris Johnson has admitted that he hasn't been to the Northern Irish border since his time as Foreign Secretary but ruled out border checks from the British Government post-Brexit.

Asked about the border, and why he has not returned since succeeding Theresa May at 10 Downing St, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve seen the old border and how absolutely vital it is we keep the open border, on the plan, it’s fairly obvious, we need to find a way of ensuring that the UK is not kept locked in backstop arrangement while giving Ireland the assurance that it needs,” he said.

“Whether it’s electronic pre-clearance or concept of the unity of island for agri-foods, and other ideas we’ll bring forward to address the full range.

“I don’t underestimate the technical problems but I do think there is a way through.”

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

“All it does is kick the can down the road for another 14 months.”

Mr Varadkar also said that direct rule in Northern Ireland would be: “Contrary to the St Andrews agreement” and “we want to see east-west institutions used to full effect to give us an opportunity to have a consultative role in any big decision in Northern Ireland.”

Earlier: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out the British Government undergoing checks at the Northern Irish border ahead of his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar meanwhile has said there is no such thing as a clean Brexit as he begins talk with his British counterpart

"We respect the democratic and sovereign decision to leave the European Union," Mr Varadkar said.

"However, the story of Brexit will not end if the United Kingdom leaves on October 31 or even January 31 - there is no such thing as a clean break. No such thing as just getting it done.

Rather, we just enter a new phase.

However, he insisted the pair have "much to discuss".

Mr Johnson outlined two tasks the pair must undergo:

  • Restore the Stormont Assembly
  • "We must get Brexit done"

Mr Varadkar added that with or without a Brexit deal, issues such as tariffs, fishing rights and state aid have to be dealt with.

"We are open to alternatives - but they must to realistic," Mr Varadkar said.

Earlier: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has arrived at Government Buildings ahead of a crucial meeting with British Primer Minister Boris Johnson this morning.

It is anticipated that a North-only backstop will be one of solutions discussed between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson today in fresh attempts to break the Brexit deadlock.

However, Mr Varadkar played down any prospects of a deal being struck between the two leaders as they hold their first face-to-face meeting in Dublin.

Mr Johnson has come under fire for his handling of Brexit negotiations during his brief premiership to date.

In the event of no-deal, Mr Varadkar says it is not possible to talk about a free trade agreement until issues around citizens’ rights, the financial settlement associated with the UK leaving the EU and Ireland are resolved, which he says were already resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement.

On Mr Johnson’s comments that he would rather be found “dead in a ditch” than seek an extension, Mr Varadkar said he did not feel the same.

He added: “It’s important we remember that this is not about politicians, it’s about protecting people’s jobs, business and peace and security – and if an extension is required to do that, well I think any politician should be prepared to do that.”

Meanwhile in the UK, Tory MP Nigel Evans said Boris Johnson is more likely to call for a vote of no confidence in his own Government or force an election via another means than to go to Brussels to ask for an Article 50 extension.

The joint executive secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs told Today: “I cannot see under the current circumstances Boris Johnson going to Brussels and asking for that extension.”