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Leo Varadkar spoke with Boris Johnson by phone for almost an hour this evening

It’s been agreed the two leaders will meet in Dublin in September.

Updated Aug 19th 2019, 10:42 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR and the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson spoke this evening and discussed the Withdrawal Agreement, Common Travel Area and Stormont.

A government statement confirmed the two leaders spoke for almost an hour. 

“The prime minister indicated that the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form will not get through the House of Commons, that the backstop would need to be removed and that an alternative solution is required,” the statement said.

“The Taoiseach reiterated the EU27 position that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened, and emphasised the importance of the legally operable guarantee to ensure no hard border and continued free trade on the island of Ireland.”

The prime minister made clear that the Common Travel Area, which predates the UK and Ireland joining the EU, would not be affected by the ending of freedom of movement after Brexit, the government statement said.

Efforts to restore a devolved government at Stormont, as well as this morning’s explosion along the border of Fermanagh and Cavan were also discussed.

It was agreed that the Taoiseach and prime minister will meet in Dublin in early September. 

While the Irish Government and the UK Government issued the same statement, only the Irish Government’s statement mentioned the meeting. 

The backstop

Separately today, Johnson wrote to EU President Donald Tusk reaffirming his desire to conclude a Brexit deal as well as his opposition to the backstop.

In his letter, Johnson stressed that his government wanted to achieve an exit deal with Brussels. 

“You have my personal commitment that this government will work with energy and determination to achieve an agreement. That is our highest priority,” Johnson wrote.

However, Johnson said the backstop is “anti-democratic”.

“The backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place [alternative arrangements] as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.

“I recognise that there will need to be a degree of confidence about what would happen if these arrangements were not all fully in place at the end of [the transition] period.

“We are ready to look constructively and flexibly at what commitments might help.”

Brussels and the Irish government have said the backstop is needed as a fallback option to preserve the integrity of European trade and avoid a hard border. 

Johnson has said he is ready to leave the EU by October 31, with or without an accord.

The EU has repeatedly stated that it is not ready to renegotiate the Brexit deal it reached with Theresa May.

Includes reporting from - © AFP 2019

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