Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today he is open to the idea of a review of any so-called Irish backstop arrangement, as long as Britain could not decide to kill off the temporary measure.
A way of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland is widely considered the biggest obstacle to the UK and EU agreeing a Brexit deal.
Before a permanent solution can be found, the UK and EU are trying to negotiate a so-called backstop that, under an EU proposal, could see Britain and Northern Ireland trade under World Trade Organization rules but linked in a customs union with the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.
But Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has reportedly demanded the backstop is time-limited, with Britain able to review it and pull out if it wants.
On a phone call between Prime Minister Theresa May and Ireland’s Taoiseach today, Varadkar ruled out the possibility of the UK quitting any stopgap measure that prevents a hard border in Ireland.
“The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop,” a spokesperson for the Irish government said.
“He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply ‘unless and until’ alternative arrangements are agreed.”
He also told Irish media this morning that “a backstop with a three-month limit on it or expiry date of that nature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.
Downing Street called the leaders' discussion a “constructive conversation”, and said May and Varadkar had agreed that any backstop must be temporary.
“The Prime Minister said that there would need to be a mechanism through which the backstop could be brought to an end,” a spokesperson added.
Sterling rose from 1.297 against the dollar this morning to 1.302 this afternoon.