Monday 9 September 2019 10:01 am

Boris Johnson warned over 'Herculean task' of post-Brexit trade deals

Boris Johnson has been warned to row back from his pledge to take the UK out of the European Union with or without a deal during his visit to Dublin.

The Prime Minister arrived for talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this morning, with Westminster still in turmoil.

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Ahead of their meeting, Varadkar pressed upon Johnson that Brexit would not be the end of the matter.

“There is no such thing as a clean break, or just getting it done… if there is a no deal that will cause huge disruption for Irish people,” he said.

Even with a deal it would be “very tough… a Herculean task for you” to secure a free trade agreement before the end of any transition period.

“We want to be your friend… your Athena in doing so. Your manner of leaving will determine whether that’s possible,” Varadkar said. “The stakes are high.”

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Johnson told Varadkar he understood the “complexities” and “symbolism” in solving the Irish border question, the key to whether the UK will leave with or without a deal on 31 October. And he stressed that he still was seeking a deal.

“Strip away the politics and at the core of each problem you find practical problems that can be resolved with sufficient energy and spirit of compromise,” he said.

“One message that I want to land with you today Leo – I want to find a deal. I want to get a deal. Like you, I’ve looked carefully at no deal, I’ve assessed its consequnces both for your country and ours. Of course we could do it, the UK could get through it, but that outcome would be a failure of statecraft.

“For the sake of business, farmers, and millions of ordariny people who are counting on us… to get this done. I want you to do know I would overwhelmingly prefer to get an agreement.”

Varadkar said there had been no new proposals put forward for the EU to consider, while Johnson reiterated the “abundant” options, mentioning a trusted trader scheme and pre-clearance checks that he has raised previously.

Johnson told journalists to “manage down expectations” that there would not be “a complete breakthrough today”. But he hoped talks would be “constructive”.

“We have the ideal amount of time to get this straight,” he added, pointing to the 30 day timeframe referenced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he visited Berlin 19 days ago.

Varadkar added that he hoped things could be resolved at the European Council summit in mid-October, stressing that the EU would only consider a further extension if there were “good reason” for it.

Main image: Getty