100 days to hold firm on the border backstop

23 July 2019

Reacting to the announcement that Boris Johnson MP has been elected as leader of the Conservative party and presumptive UK Prime Minister, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, called on the Taoiseach to hold firm in the face of pressure to diminish the legal protections for Ireland’s open border with Northern Ireland.

Brendan said:

“Boris Johnson has said that he wants the UK to leave the European Union in just 100 days from now. After three difficult years, the withdrawal agreement was negotiated and the EU has made it clear that it cannot be reopened. The legal protections to ensure Ireland’s open border, the backstop, must be respected as a necessary part of that agreement.

“The new UK government is likely to apply maximum pressure on Ireland to make a concession, and some EU leaders may panic at the prospect of the UK leaving without a deal. However, no country will be as negatively affected as Ireland, and the Government must hold firm on the backstop to protect our long-term interests even if the short-term impact is a major negative shock to the economy.

“Johnson has argued that by taking no deal off the table, the UK weakens its hand in negotiations. Equally, if Ireland reduces our resolve to maintain an open border, that would seriously weaken our negotiating position. If the Taoiseach compromises on the border now, that could reinforce division on this island for generations to come. But even if some checks are imposed temporarily, our national aim of having an open border can be preserved at EU level as the only acceptable long-term outcome.

“The new European Commission President has indicated her willingness to give the UK more time, and the Government should strongly advocate patience among other EU leaders to allow the new British Government to come to terms with reality and not push them into making any rash decisions.”

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