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Chair of Brexit Party says Varadkar 'hijacked' the backstop issue, and that Irish border trade is 'irrelevant'

Richard Tice, an MEP for the East of England, also explained trade across the Northern Irish border by comparing it to a jar of Smarties.

THE CHAIRMAN OF the Brexit Party has accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of “hijacking” the backstop issue, and claimed that the amount of trade that crosses the Northern Irish border is “irrelevant” and “it wouldn’t matter”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie at a Brexit Party conference event in Newport, chairman and MEP Richard Tice said that “too many of the UK politicians have used the backstop issue, the Irish border issue, basically as a way of making it all so complicated and difficult”.

After dismissing the trade across the Irish border as “tiny” and “irrelevant” in comparison to the EU’s total trade, the 55-year-old businessman said that security along the border wouldn’t be a concern.

“The truth is that people like Leo Varadkar have disgracefully hijacked this issue,” Tice said.

And let’s remember Enda Kenny, his predecessor, said that we can sort this out with a simple thing called good will. Varadkar doesn’t have that good will. That’s why we’ve ended up where we are, and we think it’s a disgrace.

The Brexit Party is on a conference tour of the UK for the month of September, stopping off in a number of areas before a final event in London. On Saturday, the Brexit Party was at Newport, Wales where around 300-400 people attended the event. 

During the event, Tice illustrated for the crowd how the Withdrawal Agreement was a bad deal. While holding handcuffs, Tice said that under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK would be tied to the EU in a way that would be the same as imprisonment. 

Prison A slide that was showing during the Newport Brexit Party conference. Source: The Brexit Party/Twitter

The jar of Smarties

While speaking to TheJournal.ie, Tice used another illustrative example to make his point that trade across the Irish border wouldn’t be an issue.

“I’ll give you a simple picture to understand the issue here. If you put 1,000 Smarties into a glass jar, those Smarties represent all of the trade that goes on across borders in the whole of the European Union. How many Smarties do you think, represent the amount of trade that goes across that border of Northern Ireland?”

Well, one Smartie. It is an absolutely tiny, tiny percentage.
As Nigel quite rightly said, there are already five different things that go across that border, different VAT rates, different currency, different income tax rate, company tax rates, and then different excise duty. So we’ve got five different things. And actually, with a simple thing called good will, actually it works, it works well. And, you know, there was no reason with a sixth thing, that anything that should change.

He said that the technology that has been proposed to replace the backstop “is no different” to the technology used to track a parcel being delivered to your home on your app: “It’s exactly the same technology.”

Goods are basically predeclared before they leave their points of origin. And then they are confirmed upon receipt when they arrive at their appointed destination.

He continued:

“Yes, everybody knows, there is already smuggling that goes across that border. It’s tiny. It wouldn’t matter if one Smartie turned into two Smarties in terms of the protection of the Single Market or the Customs Union. It’s irrelevant.”

At the Newport event on Saturday, Brexit Party leader and high-profile Brexiteer Nigel Farage said that the Irish border/backstop question was “very difficult to provide an answer for”. He also said that there would be no hard border, because Leo Varadkar, the European Union, and the UK all said that there would be no hard border.

Yesterday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Sky News that there would be a border on the island of Ireland if there was no deal.

“An animal entering Northern Ireland without border control can enter the European Union without any kind of control via the southern part of the Irish island. This cannot happen. We have to preserve the health and safety of our citizens,” Juncker said.

Earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted for the first time that some checks may have to take place at the border if there’s a no-deal Brexit. 

“There will be checks on goods and live animals and, as far as possible, they will take place in ports, airports and at businesses. But some may need to take place near the border.”

A surge for the Brexit Party

The Brexit Party won 29 MEP seats out of the UK’s 73 in the European Parliament, making them the UK’s largest political party in the EP. The most recent YouGov poll puts the party, which was formed just earlier this year, on 14%. 

“Yes, there is a lot of anger out there, and people do feel betrayed,” Tice says, of the supporters of his party.

“And that’s what we’re standing for – we’re standing for to make sure that democracy is protected and upheld. Heaven forbid there was a second referendum, and if the result was Remain. Then people’s trust in democracy will disappear forever in this country.”

He said that if there was a second referendum, they would insist on the choice being between a ‘clean-break Brexit’ or Remain, and believes that Remain would win “absolutely hands down”.

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