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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the EU Summit with Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee. AP/PA Images

'The backstop has been replaced': Varadkar hails agreement between EU and UK

The new agreement will now need to be approved by the House of Commons.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has hailed the agreement reached between the UK and the EU for avoiding a hard border in Ireland. 

Varadkar, who has played a key role during the Brexit talks as wrangling continued over the Northern Ireland backstop, said that the agreement is a “good” one for Ireland. 

“I think it is a good agreement for Northern Ireland and Ireland and the wider European Union,” he said. 

The backstop, he added, has been replaced with a new solution in this agreement. 

“The backstop has been replaced, it’s been replaced by a new solution for Northern Ireland, recognising its unique history and geography but that new solution does what we need it to do, avoids a hard border between north and south,” the Taoiseach said. 

“[It] protects the all-island economy, protects the single market and our place in it and also, and we were happy to accept this, takes account of the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.

“Because we’ve always expressed the view and said we would never seek to hold Northern Ireland in an arrangement for the long-term against the will of the people there.

The agreement will now need to be approved by the House of Commons. It’s not immediately clear whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who currently has no majority, will be able to secure the backing of MPs for his agreement. 

The DUP has already said that it will vote against the deal, which in short will see Northern Ireland inside the UK customs territory but still aligned to a set of EU rules. 

After four years, MLAs in Stormont will also be able to vote by a simple majority on whether to continue with the customs and regulatory arrangements.

The EU today stressed the certainty of the deal and called the newly configured role of Stormont a “cornerstone” of the deal. 

“This does now go to the House of Commons and they will consider the matter on Saturday and I think we should give them the time and space to make a decision for themselves about what they believe is the right think for the United Kingdom,” Varadkar said. 

Questioned on the concessions made by the EU negotiators, Varadkar said that he had wanted a deal. 

“I regret that they are leaving but we accept that they are leaving,” he said. 

Varadkar and Johnson’s meeting in Wirral last week provided revived momentum ahead of the frantic, back-and-forth negotiations of recent days. 

The revised version of the Withdrawal Agreement reached today just in time for a crucial EU summit being held today and tomorrow.

With reporting by Cónal Thomas 

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