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Varadkar: Brexit changes “do not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement or undermine the backstop”

Changes to the Brexit deal “do not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement or undermine the backstop” the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking in Government Buildings this morning, Leo Varadkar said he “hopes and trusts” that the Withdrawal Agreement will now be endorsed by the House of Commons.

After late night discussions British prime minister Theresa May secured "legally binding" changes with the EU.

Mr Varadkar was yesterday forced to delay his St Patrick’s trip to the US after an emergency Cabinet was called last night.

Speaking this morning he said that in discussions with the UK, the Government has worked “hand in hand with our EU partners and EU institutions” and they have “insisted that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be rewritten”.

“However we have also said that we would be prepared to offer guarantees and further reassurances to the United Kingdom of our good faith and intentions, indeed we have offered such reassurances on many occasions.

The instrument agreed yesterday puts those assurances on a legal footing and represents an unambiguous statement by both parties on what has been agreed.

“It does not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement or undermine the backstop or its application, it says we will work together in good faith in pursuit of a future relationship that ensures the objective of the protocol, particularly the need to avoid a hard border is met.”

Minister for Europena Affairs Helen McEntee TD & Tanaiste & Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD during the Taoiseach's remarks this morning. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

Mr Varadkar said the Government are also “committed to exploring alternatives in a timely way” in the event “that the overall future relationship cannot be concluded in a satisfactory and timely manner”.

But he said this “does not call into question” that the backstop will apply unless and until better arrangements are agreed.

The Taoiseach said MPs in Westminster must now be given “the time and space to consider what is now on the table”.